How to create a healthy balance between work and home

Being a working parent can be tough—it is a demanding role that requires the energy of an athlete, and the time-management skills of a ninja. We talk to Marketing Manager/Super-mum, Oriwa Hytongue, on what it takes to get the balance right when juggling work and family.

Before Oriwa was managing web projects and proofing Mānuka honey labels, she was working in the hectic halls of a Hotel. “After studying Sociology, Marketing, and Māori in Dunedin,” she says. “I ended up working at a local hotel—doing everything from cleaning to accounts.”

Working in hospitality is not for everyone, it requires thick-skin and clear-thinking. Each day presents fresh problems — if you don’t think on your toes, you’ll be gone quicker than a miniature Jagermeister from the minibar. “I was balancing shift-work while raising our new-born, Mika, when I realised I needed to change my daily structure,” says Oriwa.

Flip your schedule

It was beneath the relentless hum of hotel air-conditioning that Oriwa developed her own unique approach to time-management. “Instead of getting ready for the day in the morning, we’d plan for everything the evening before,” she says. “I took my morning/evening schedule and flipped it—so when we woke we were ready for the day ahead.”

This reversed planning style would soon prove beneficial for Oriwa and her growing family. It was in the middle of the hotel-hustle when a job at Downing became available. This gave her the opportunity to apply her knowledge from university, coupled with her skills gained from hospitality.

Three years and another baby later, Oriwa has developed an appreciation for a healthy work/life balance. “I love working with other like-minded people,” she says. “Not only is it stimulating, it makes me value family-time even more.”

Being a working parent is not without its challenges. “I know that some mums feel they are taking something away from their kids by working,” says Oriwa. “But I think the opposite is true, I believe I have more to give them when we’re together.”

Value togetherness and community

Togetherness and community have become strong values for Oriwa and her husband, Dan. He is a teacher at Nelson Central School and is an advocate for Māori and Pasifika culture in the region. On top of that, Oriwa’s mum is a school Deputy Principal; and her Dad runs a community boxing gym. This wider-family culture has become a support network that is indispensable for Oriwa and Dan. And with son Mika following in Dan’s footsteps to play rugby, Oriwa fills her weekends cheering with other families from the side-line.

This community culture is a shared value at Downing. Many of Oriwa’s colleagues have growing families and are familiar with the hectic dynamics that come into play for working parents. It’s not uncommon to have a child in the lunch-room colouring-in, or sneaking a mint or two from reception.

Whether Oriwa is proof-reading an annual report for a client, or a school project for Mika, being time-efficient is still one of her most valuable skills. “It’s the little systems that we’ve put in place at home that makes everything run smoothly,” she says. “When we get home from work each day we get the kids lunches sorted, bags packed, and clothes ready for the next day. We do this before we sit down and relax.”

Celebrate little wins

Oriwa knows there are always challenges being a working mum, but with a healthy support network, and commitment to routine, she has each day set-up for success. “Getting little ‘wins’ in the morning makes the rest of the day easier,” she says. “If I can get everyone out of the house with brushed teeth and brushed hair, then I know I will have a good day.”

Oriwa’s top tips for work/life balance

1. Flip your schedule – get ready for the morning the night before
2. Create a routine and allow for the unexpected
3. Schedule time for family and community
4. Surround yourself with a supportive network
5. Celebrate the small wins

“I took my morning/evening schedule and flipped it—so when we woke we were ready for the day ahead.”