This week’s topic is how I find my work/life balance. Ironically today I feel like I’m just not managing this at all. Everyone woke up late, I struggled to eat breakfast, and then walked out of the house without tidying the kitchen and I’m pretty sure the kids didn’t brush their teeth. But you know what? Maybe today is the perfect time to talk about how I find my work/life balance – because sometimes you just don’t! This isn’t to say that on the whole I don’t, just today that I haven’t and who knows what the week ahead will hold.
But I’m not going to write you some beautiful blog, an ode to organisation, a poem about perfect time management or a meditation on motherhood. No, today you get my thoughts on what I think work/life balance is and how I try to achieve it – and forgive myself when I don’t.
So, for me work/life balance is more like work/motherhood/me balance.
I spend 21 hours a week in the workplace (3 of those hours are for lunch) and occasionally start a bit earlier or leave a bit later. During those 21 hours, although I’m on call for any emergency motherhood issues, it is generally time to focus on my career, my workplace and my colleagues. I love working, I love my job and I love the fact that by continuing on in the workplace as a mum, but career knowledge and skills stay current. I also love that I get a break from the day to day monotony that I sometimes experience motherhood to be.
Although I receive 21 hours of respite so to speak by working. I am still a mum 24/7. That’s right, 168 hours a week, no matter what I’m doing, whether I’m working, volunteering or spending some much needed me time alone kid-free, I’m still a mum. This is the case for most mums really, Just because I’m not home with my children 24/7, doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about them, caring for them in some way, shape or form or loving them.
Being a mother is so much more than feeding, clothing and entertaining your children. I am always a mother in the same way that I’m always a woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunty. It is an intrinsic part of who I am and how I see the world. The moment I became a mother, I knew a love like no other and that love doesn’t switch off because I go to work or go and see a movie with my friends.
Whether you’re a stay at home mum (hardest job in the world if you ask me, I did it for the better part of 15 months full time and still do it on a part time basis), part time or full time working mum – you love your children 100% of the time – yes even when they’re being their worst selves and you don’t think you can take any more, you still love them.
I am not the mum who declares, “I need some ME time” obnoxiously to my (equally) hard working husband and then proceeds to plan a spa day. I don’t even keep a tally of the number of nights he spends camping compared to the number of hours I get kid-free (I tried, it wasn’t fair, I stopped – who needs that kind of negativity in their lives). But I am a mum who does take occasional (relatively) guilt-free time to do things for me, by myself.
Heck, I think that some mums with more than one child would agree that even doing things with one less child could be considered a holiday.
But I do nice things for myself. The other week I went to dinner and a movie with one of my dear friends. Earlier that week I went to the AGM for the committee I’ve been a member of since before the girls were born. On Sunday I got to leave the house and go run some (admittedly household) errands kid-free. Which is incredibly hard to do when the cutest little guy runs to put his boots on and asks, “I go with you?” every time I so much as look at my car keys. I also have those blissful few minutes after I drop the kids off and before I walk into work where my mind can decompress from family life and focus on the day ahead.
Very occasionally (and likely to be less so with number 4 on the way), I even get a night or two away in another city or state or even a night at a hotel in my own city.
Oh and at the end of last year and again recently, my husband has started doing day care pickups so that I can go straight home from work at 4pm and start dinner, tidying up the kitchen and generally doing household tasks kid-free that I wouldn’t otherwise have the time to do.
And then there are the moments in life where I just feel so exhausted or need to focus on something specific that I clock out and go to my bedroom or my office and leave the kids with my husband in the rest of the house.
The other aspect of my life that makes up me is my relationship with my husband and friends. My husband isn’t a social butterfly like I am, so oftentimes our quality time is spent on the couch watching something we both like on television and oftentimes leading to discussions about our thoughts and beliefs on an issue. Sometimes it’s having a chat before we fall asleep at night. We rarely do designated date nights, but we certainly have the opportunity to spend a lot of kid-free time together after bed time. Every now and then we each go our separate ways and do the things that we love doing in our own space, or sitting side-by-side. There’s no hard and fast rule for how to make time for each other, but I strongly believe that if we’re communicating with each other and spending time together, that we’re doing OK.
Do I think I have a good work/motherhood/me balance?
Yes, I feel that my life is balanced on the whole. Not all the time, but most of the time I feel like I have enough time for me, I spend enough time with my family and have a successful work life. I try my best to find moments in each day that are about me. Getting ready for work whilst my husband feeds the kids breakfast or sitting on the couch after the kids are in bed and just relaxing with my dinner while my husband does his own thing in his man cave are times that not everyone would consider “me time” but I like to recharge by batteries this way.
How did I find my balance?
Trial and error! And flexibility too. Finding the balance in this moment, today, this week or this month doesn’t mean that it’s a binding agreement with yourself or one that will suit tomorrow, next week or next month. I also adjusted my mindset to take advantage of any moment where I can focus on me to be “me time”. I don’t need a lavish holiday in a five star resort or even more than a few minutes in some cases to be recharged and ready to face the world.
How do I forgive myself when I don’t find the right balance?
Look, life is never going to go perfectly. But be open to flexibility, to finding the small parts in your day that you can make count and to letting it go if it doesn’t go to plan. Occasionally I neglect myself so badly that I just get unbelievably exhausted and spend the afternoon sleeping. But bottom line, life is flexible and changes and you can choose to adapt or not, but whatever you do – don’t spend time beating yourself up when things don’t go to plan. Take a deep breath, move on and forgive yourself as best you can.
How can you find yours?
Well I’m never going to have an answer for everyone, but I would suggest starting with looking at what you’re passionate about and trying to make some time for your passion. For me, The Humble Mum features pretty strongly in my “me time”. I spend my lunch breaks at work on The Humble Mum and occasionally before and after work or after the kids are in bed. This is my passion project and something that incidentally keeps some of my career skills current too.
If you find your passion, then that’s a great starting point to building up the rest of your obligations around what makes you happy. Your passion could be anything – your kids, your husband, your pets, your home, your car, your work, your sporting activities, your health, your home organisation, anything that brings you joy and happiness. It could be the right mix of many of these things and so much more.
What makes you happy and how can you incorporate it into your life today?