Career and EducationEducationFamilySupporting Learning

Steering the Ship – Family Life Balance

The bridge of a ship with steering wheel and navigation aids.
Most parents say that they are constantly busy, especially those who have school-aged children or younger ones to care for. Juggling the demands of family life can be compared to captaining a ship on an ocean voyage.

In many households, both parents work outside the home, and still have to cope with the demands of schooling, sporting groups and other classes for their children in order to provide the best opportunities they can for their children’s future. But even where one parent stays at home, the expectations of society and our own fears for our children’s future plague our minds and keep us awake at night. We wonder if our children will have the skills needed to be able to support themselves independently and enjoy a worthwhile life after school-days end.

The role of parents in a family can be compared to that of a captain setting out on a sea voyage. The captain plans his course and maps it out beforehand. He ensures that the engines are running smoothly, that there are sufficient supplies and fuel on board for the journey, that all the crew are present and in good form and that the cargo has been loaded correctly so that it is balanced and will not move during the voyage even if the seas are rough. Only then will the captain permit the ship to leave the dock.

During a sea voyage, the captain ensures that frequent readings of navigation instruments are taken so that he knows where the ship is located at any given time. This ensures that the ship does not run aground and stays on course. The radar is constantly checked to ensure that the ship avoids collisions with other sea-going vessels. Often during the voyage there are storms, rough seas and strong currents to contend with. When the ship has veered off course due to the effects of wind, currents or tide, adjustments are made to get the ship back on course. This may mean going back to the maps and re-plotting the course. In the event of a big storm, it may be that the ship heads for a safe harbour, drops anchor and waits until the storm passes before returning to the original course.

So too for parents it is important to make plans for the smooth sailing of the family. Such plans include creating a nurturing environment at home for children to grow in and providing an education which will prepare them to become independent in the future. Parents also provide healthy food on a daily basis, adequate clothing, and ensure that children do regular exercise and have adequate sleep. If any of these things are neglected or if too much time and attention is given to one area over the others, problems are likely to surface as for a ship whose cargo is out of balance.

Sometimes due to pressures of events beyond our control, e.g. a relative or close friend being afflicted by a disease, or the victim of an accident, the smooth running of our households suffer and we find after some weeks have passed that we need to make some adjustments to get back on course and make sure that all members of our families are being looked after. The ‘storm’ may even be in the form of one of our children who has a special need of some kind requiring extra time and attention. In this case, we need to take care that other members of the family feel loved and cared for and that their needs are also being met.

When a ship enters dangerous waters coming into or leaving a harbor, the captain is sometimes required to take a pilot on board who will take over steering the ship. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of experts if you feel you cannot handle a problem.

How is your ‘sea voyage’ going?

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