Want to know my secret behind my work and life balance?
Spoiler alert: there is no secret. Because there is no such thing as work and life balance.
Don’t give up hope yet.
Just because there isn’t this magical happy place that exists somewhere in the middle of your personal and professional life, doesn’t mean there aren’t certain things you can’t do in order to lighten the load and ease the stress of trying to be all the things and do all the things for every person you come into contact with.
What I Have Learned About Work and Life Balance
As a working mom of three, I know the struggles of desperately wanting to be able to stay home with your babies on any given day and just snuggle up together for lots of extra love. Yet, I know the yearning of wanting to grow, do, and be in order to accomplish goals outside of those that define my mothering.
And I know the tug of war that exists in the hearts of so many working moms between their families and their careers.
In my experience becoming a mom and growing a family as I have been working, I have learned how to create my own sort of balance. It’s not the miraculous balance that society tells us is a real thing.
It’s messy and out of sorts and at the same time it can be collected and streamlined. I am grateful to have a supportive partner and I have family and friends to support me in both physical and emotional ways.
Shift Your Mindset
So the first thing you have to do is shift your mindset.
Parenting is so much harder than you can even imagine before you have actually walked through it yourself. There is no way to forge through this parenting role without feeling like a complete failure and at your wits ends from time to time. So we have to learn to shift our mindset from this idea that there is such a thing as the “perfect mom”.
I hate to break it to you, mama, but there is a lot that is different about your life once you have had kids. Understanding that you are going to fail from time to time does not mean admitting defeat as much as it allows you to live in a space of reality where you won’t wind up disappointed all the time.
Before I had kids I would proudly state that I would never be the mom that would bribe my kids. I wouldn’t allow my kids to destroy things in our house. I wouldn’t be the mom with the screaming toddler in the grocery store.
And then I had kids.
Everything changed. I was forced to shift my mindset and accept the notion that perfection was unattainable and unrealistic. I had to get that out of my head real quick.
Mom Guilt is a Thing
The truth is, we all experience moments of guilt as moms. Our roles are important to us and our society makes us believe we must do it perfectly or we will be to blame for all things wrong in the world in twenty years. Part of my approach to being a working mom and staying sane is to say no to the lies that creep in and make me feel like I am failing as a mother.
When you begin feeling mom guilt, reach out to your mama tribe and tell them you need them. The best medicine for mom guilt is snuggles with your babies and a group of moms to confide in who will reassure you that you are not alone.
Your tribe doesn’t have to be one singular group of moms either. I have moms in all areas of my life who I trust to share my mom struggles with. Even if you have one other mom friend to confide it, it helps knowing you’re not the only one experiencing the feeling of mom guilt.
Work and Life Balance Secret Revealed
You’re probably not surprised to find out that there really isn’t a secret to doing it all. But I don’t want you to feel that I misled you so I want to explain myself. The issue with this is that we have been conditioned to think that every problem we experience must have a one step antidote to achieve the solution.
The first thing to know is that the balance between work and life isn’t found in an easy button. It is a combination of effort, intentional choices, habits and grace that we create that will ultimately help us to achieve something like a balance between these roles.
Budget Your Time
This might be the single most powerful thing you can do in order to take back your life and schedule.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Have you ever noticed how when you don’t have a plan in place for your day or even your week nothing really seems to be accomplished? It’s almost like running around in a dark room with no lights on. There is no guiding light to get you where you need to be.
Make a small baby step and start with a calendar/planner to keep track of everything. Use it to write out everything you know that is coming up in the month ahead. Just get it all out there. Even if you know you are forgetting something, just put whatever you can think of at the time.
As each week approaches, take time to look at the events happening in detail and make arrangements accordingly for them.
Try This Free Printable Weekly Planner:
Then, take it one step further and plan out your day the night before. Last summer, I was able to hear Amy Howard speak at a blogging conference I attended. She shared about how she setting daily intentions has contributed to her success as a business owner. Every night, she would plan out the next day; what she would wear, what things she needed to accomplish, people she needed to see, etc.
Think about how powerful creating such a habit could be for your life!
Create and Follow Systems
Systems are the basic way we do things in our homes. Think about the daily way you get out the door in the morning, what are the things you do everyday? This is your morning system.
Systems allow us a means by which to accomplish tasks. It’s likely that you have some systems in your home. Of course each day brings new and different challenges and so our systems might vary from day to day. But the entire idea of creating and using systems in our homes is to provide a foundation from which to build.
I knew I was going to need systems to save my sanity when our family grew from two to three kids. Three kids is such a game changer because I feel like there is always someone to care for and something to take care of. It’s like living in this state of constant juggling and chaos. As a teacher, I knew that systems were one of the best ways to create structure and avoid stress.
Use a Calendar
I carry and use a paper calendar to keep track of everything from work meetings and important dates, kids activities, and blogging deadlines.
I actually have two paper calendars – professional and personal
My professional planner is the one I use for my classroom. I keep my lesson plans, inservice dates, and meetings in this planner. It typically stays at school on my desk.
My personal planner is the planner I use to keep track of family activities, kids school activities, and tasks and events for my business.
My husband and I also utilize a shared calendar on our phones. We basically live and die by that calendar. Whatever appointments, meetings, or gatherings we have – they go on the calendar. Everything goes on the calendar.
We both have come to rely on our shared iCal as a way to communicate upcoming events. We needed this because by the time we put our kids to bed and had down time in the evening, we are often too tired to think about the important upcoming events. The shared calendar allows us to keep each other in the loop in a more real time way.
Give Yourself Grace
Don’t forget that as much as the balance is about the things we do or don’t do, it’s also about giving yourself grace. In the moments when you feel like you cannot do all the things that are being expected of you, remember that you are human and that it is okay.
Perhaps one of the most valuable things I have learned in the last seven years of being a working mom is that a majority of my frustrations and struggles I have had come from the pressure I have put on myself to get everything done for everyone all the time.
I found (am still finding) that when I allow grace for myself, I’m not giving my to-do list power over me, and rather I am choosing to be okay with whatever gets done.
Know When to Ask for Help
There is no way I could be a teacher, be a mom, nurture my marriage, keep my house clean, and keep everything straight in between if I didn’t have help. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or incapable. Being a mom is hard. Working as a mom is SUPER hard.
Asking for help and hiring help has truly been the biggest success factor for me. I’m so grateful for friends and fellow moms who will help with school pick up and after school activities. I am not sure what we would do without our family members to help when we have needed it.
I have also begun to hire help as needed. For example, my husband and I try to do a weekly date night. It’s an important part of our marriage and we can’t always expect family to come over on a Friday evening so we hire a babysitter.
Hire It Out
Laundry is a chore I really don’t love.
If you asked me what chore I would gladly get rid of – it would hands down be laundry!
Why is there always SO MUCH?
Hiring WishWash KC has been life changing for us. Once a week they come and pick up our dirty laundry that I leave in a bag on the porch and return it washed, dried and folded the next day.
I know myself well enough to know that I thrive when our home is clean and tidy. Keeping main areas clean and tidy are usually pretty easy since we have those chores worked into our daily systems. However, some of the things like mopping the floors, cleaning the bathrooms and toilets are not things I love doing. So we have a house cleaner who comes once a week to help with cleaning upkeep like this. This is a priority for me because I know the difference in how I feel knowing our home is clean and I don’t have to spend precious time scrubbing toilets.
When you reach your breaking point and everything is out of balance the first thing you need to do is to take an audit of your responsibilities and time commitment.
Make a list of all of your responsibilities. Include everything from work duties, committees, boards, and volunteer roles. Then, take one week to do a time audit. Keep track of the things you are spending your time on hour by hour each day. When you do this, you can look back to see where you might be wasting time doing things that are taking too much of your time.
While the work and life balance isn’t a real thing, maintaining your own sanity and happiness is. So while I am sharing these keys with you, I want to stress that this by no means a one size fits all fix. There are so many things that go into the balance and it looks completely different for every family.
I urge you to find the best balance for you and your family!
Consider a Family Command Center
You might consider establishing a family command center and including items like a calendar, bins for each person in your household. To read more about setting up a family command center in your home click here.