Striking the Elusive Work-Life Balance
Do you ever feel like a juggler in the circus of life, trying to keep all the balls in the air? There’s a ball for work, a ball for each of your children, a ball for your significant other, and so on. If you’re feeling like it’s nearly impossible to keep them all in the up while attempting to grasp some semblance of a normal life, you’re not alone. I, and many other mamas like us have been on this wild, beautiful ride of balancing work and home life, and it can certainly be a rollercoaster of emotions, challenges, and triumphs.
When I first stepped out into the world as a mama who works outside the home, I was thrilled yet overwhelmed. The chaos was real, and I found myself longing for a semblance of balance. But let’s be honest—balance isn’t about everything being equal; it’s about finding harmony in the chaos. As with anything, parenting while maintaining a career requires balance. Life, especially with young children, is unpredictable so expecting your life to function like a well-oiled machine is unrealistic and will only lead to disappointment. It’s important to keep that balance in mind as you consider taking steps to make the chaos of your work and home life a little more manageable.
Create a Schedule, but embrace flexibility: Establish a routine that works for your family, but remember to be flexible. Kids can be unpredictable, so allow room for adjustments and changes in your schedule. Communicate your home situation to your employer, and make them aware that there are certain times that your home life may require your attention. Consider making a list of “non-negotiables,” even if it’s just in your own mind. For example: “If my child is sick, I am not coming to work.” Or, “If my kids have a day off school during the week, I would like to work from home to be with them.” You may also want to divvy up the responsibilities of dealing with spontaneous challenges with your partner – for example, one parent could be responsible for sick days, and one parent could be in charge of school functions. There are many ways to advocate for yourself, and relieving even a small amount of stress can feel like a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders when you are juggling so much!
Designate Work Hours, and try to be firm: Whether you work in the office, from home, or on location, sticking to specific work hours is a must. While, of course, flexibility is always a must, do your best to leave work at work, and be fully present at home. Try to let work emails and obligations live within the constraints of work hours, and keep your family time focused. If you work from home, it can be helpful to have a specific workspace so that you have a removed area designated for “work,” and can leave that area at the end of your workday. Let your family know that during work hours, you need focus – but after work you’re all theirs.
Prioritize Tasks: Not everything needs to be done at once – and not everything needs to be done every day. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. While some tasks are necessary and important to accomplish every day, such as making sure your family eats dinner, some can wait. Set realistic goals for each day to manage both work and family responsibilities: the dishes in the sink can wait at the end of a long day. If you’re not feeling up to it, leave the laundry in the dryer until tomorrow. The world will keep on turning if you don’t have any clean spoons in the drawer before you go to bed!
Outsource and Delegate: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s hiring a babysitter, getting groceries delivered, or assigning age-appropriate chores to older kids, delegating tasks lightens the load. If you just can’t fathom feeding your family tonight, grab a pizza on the way home and check dinner off your list. If you’re having trouble keeping up with cleaning, assess your budget and hire someone to help. There is no shame in making life a little easier on yourself, and you’ll be a better mama when you’re able to breathe a little easier.
Meal Planning and Batch Cooking: Plan meals in advance and consider batch cooking. Having ready-to-eat meals or meal components can save a significant amount of time during busy days. If there’s a day when you find yourself with some free time, prep your meals for the week in advance so that supper time is a breeze on busy days! There are many meal planning apps available, such as eMeals, and even programs like Instacart offer recipe and meal planning options!
Self-Care Is Non-Negotiable: carve out the time. Whether it’s a short walk, meditation, reading, or a relaxing bath, taking care of yourself is essential to recharge and be at your best for your family and work. Self care can mean pedicures and massages, but it also means not feeling guilty when you sit down to watch Netflix or when you let your kids have a little extra screen time while you sleep in on the weekends. You’re doing SO much, mama. It’s ok to take a break, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you use your time outside of work. Of course, as a mom, it can be hard to find time for yourself, so be sure to carve out the time. It may not be easy, but schedule in time for yourself. Say “no” to extra responsibilities and activities when necessary, in order to give yourself some space to breathe.
On this adventure called motherhood, remember, you’re not alone. We’re all on this whirlwind journey together, figuring it out step by step. Embrace the chaos, find the humor in the messy moments, and cherish the small victories. Each day is a new page in the story of motherhood, and you’re the author of your own incredible tale. So, here’s to all the multitasking mavens, the loving nurturers, the dreamers, and the doers. You’re amazing, you’re doing great, and you’ve got this!