If you’re a bartender who is raising a family, you know how difficult it can be to balance your work and home life.

Whether you have to take a late shift, work six days in a row or travel for a conference, the hospitality world can take a serious toll on carving out family time. But it can be done! We chatted with three bartenders who are raising kids about how they balance work and their personal lives on a weekly basis. Whether you’re a parent struggling to find steadiness or are thinking about having children, heed this advice from the pros.

Wendy Hodges

Wendy Hodges

Photo by Jose DeElmont

Consider Daytime Shifts if Nighttime is Too Difficult

If you’re a bartending parent who has a spouse that works during the day, you can likely still keep evening shifts if it’s more lucrative for you. “After my wife went back to work, I stayed home for the first year with my daughter during the day, Ryan Hooks, lead bartender at Doheny Room, says. “When she would come home, I went to work. It was definitely a balancing act, though.”

Ryan Hooks

Ryan Hooks

But for some, changing to a daytime shift makes the most sense, even if it brings in less money. “Yes, working nights tends to be better financially, however I’ve found I have a better quality of life with my family by working days,” Wendy Hodges says. “I work in Las Vegas which is a 24/7 town, so overnight is an option as well, but that doesn’t work for me if I want to see my children while they are awake.” As a new parent, if you prefer to work daytime hours, it might be beneficial to find an establishment with a busy lunch crowd or happening happy hour so you’re still walking away with a livable wage.

Working with Everyone Else’s Schedule is Necessary, Too

The reality of working in modern times means that in a two parent household, each parent might have very different work days and hours. This means it takes time and dedication to plan days where everyone is off together, but it’s a necessary step if you want to experience precious family time on a weekly basis. “My venue is closed on Mondays,” Hooks says. “Therefore on Monday night, we always have dinner together. The commitment from everyone makes sure that this night has priority.”

“My wife is currently in school,” Robert Mercier says. “The benefit of that is we don’t have to struggle to get our schedules to align. If I have a day off, then we will take advantage of that as a family. Whether that means just all being together at home, going swimming, anything, as long as we’re together.”

As your kids get older, their own schedules become a balancing act, too. Whether they participate in sports, take music lessons or simply have active social lives, dropping them off and picking them up from extracurricular activities can be a challenge. For Hodges, making her house a home base allows for more time spent with her teens. “I’m fortunate that my girls and their friends like to hang out at our house, so I get to see them more than most parents,” she says. “My schedule allows for me to take them to school (someone else picks up), and then I’m home in the early evenings to spend time with them. And on weekends, my doors are revolving with the teens and their friends here.”

Daily and Weekly Rituals are Key

We already know that getting all family members together at the same time can be a challenge, but even small rituals can make a big difference in the quality of time spent with your children—especially in their formative years. “Because of how my shifts begin, if I don’t drop my oldest off in the morning, I will not see her until my rotating Sunday day off,” Mercier says. “Emotionally, I couldn’t handle seeing my daughter that little, and I can’t bear to think how it would affect her.”

Wendy Hodges

Wendy Hodges

Photo by Jose DeElmont

“I work nightlife a few nights, which means I don’t go in until 8 p.m. or later,” Hooks says. “On those nights, we have dinner together, and then I always give my daughter a bath. That time is for us to bond and also to give her mother a break after working all day.”

If you have older children, its necessary to coordinate with their schedules. And as we’re all pretty attached to our phones and technology, it’s also wise to take time to disconnect so you can focus fully on family. “Once a week, my oldest—who is in college—comes home for a family dinner,” Hodges says. “It’s not always the same day because she works and goes to school, but we make it work. We also try to plan at least one evening per week for family movie night or game night. And on my days off, everyone sits down at the table sans cell phones for a home cooked meal and catch up time.”

Accept Help When You Need It

Being a parent is a full-time job in and of itself, so don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help when you need it. “Don’t try to be super mom,” Hodges says. “If you have two to three friends or are fortunate enough to have family around to help you, let them! My mom retired early to move to Nevada and help me with my kids when my husband was deployed. Now that he’s retired from the USAF (thanks for your service babe), she is still here to help with drop-offs and pick-ups and the occasional dinner if I have to work late.”

Wendy Hodges

Wendy Hodges

Photo by Jose DeElmont

Work Will Always Be There

In an industry like bartending, it’s easy to get caught up in the conferences, competitions and events. But for both your mental wellbeing and family life, taking a step back and saying no sometimes won’t be detrimental to your career. “The best advice that I would have given myself would have been to slow down,” Mercier says. “Anything that I have achieved, I absolutely could have done it with more focus at home, and I would have missed less. Competitions, events, job opportunities—they happen every year.”

“There will always be another event or party or training to go to,” Hooks says. “But there won’t always be your kid jumping on the couch making everyone laugh saying silly things. Those are the important things.”

As part of their continued wellness advocacy initiatives, The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley sponsors this series on maintaining life balance in the bartending industry. Bartenders may request a complimentary sampling of their premium fruit purées, concentrates and blends at PerfectPuree.com/ChilledSample.