10 Steps To Work / Life Balance – Is It Even Possible?
Whether you work outside the home in a corporate career, or inside the home as a mamapreneur, work-life balance is something that we all seem to be striving for.
It’s that mirage in the desert, that oasis, that faraway glimmer of hope in every stressed out mother’s eye.
So, naturally, the question a lot of working mothers find themselves asking is… “Is work-life balance even possible? And if it is… how the heck do I achieve it?!”
Yes, even I have found myself uttering these very words.
There is a lot of disagreement about whether or not true work-life balance is actually achievable, but I am a hopeful person and I choose to live in a world where the possibilities are endless. I believe I can do anything if I really put my mind to it, and where there’s a will there’s a way.
I have chosen to ignore the belief that we have to choose between being a career woman and being a mother.
A lot of people try to tell you that you have to get your career sorted before you have kids, and a lot of women are indeed putting off having children because they want to focus on their careers first.
Now, if that’s something that you want to do and your career is the main priority, then more power to you, but what I don’t appreciate is women like me who have chosen to have kids at a younger age being made to feel like they have screwed up their lives.
We’re made to feel like we’ve had to give up our careers and our ambitions because we are now mothers. The world is meant to be progressing and modernising. We’re living in an age of political correctness and equality, and yet we are still being made to feel like those top level promotions and top levels of success are out of our reach.
The other worry for many women is that they cannot be an effective mother if they are working. They feel like if they are going out to work then they aren’t going to be as good a mother as someone who is home all day with their kids. Well ladies, I’m here to tell you that both of these beliefs are lies.
It is 100% possible to be a career woman and be a mother.
Sure, it’s not always going to be easy, but what part of motherhood is? I honestly believe that work-life balance is possible. I believe that you can reach whatever goals you may have set for yourself career-wise, and also be a fantastic mother. There just may be some shifting and adjustments that need to happen.
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I am living proof that it is possible to get a work / life balance. I have a job outside of the home where I am often finishing work at 2am, or looking after my daughter all day and then going to work once she’s in bed. I also run this business from home, and as if that wasn’t enough I also do some virtual assisting work for other companies. Yes, I do have days where I fall out of balance and I can sense myself spending too much time on my work (or sometimes not enough time on my work), but I always manage to bring it back to centre when I am feeling off balance.
So, how exactly do I manage it? I have a few top tips for anyone who is really struggling to find that balance and feels like they are either spending too much time on their careers and not enough time with their families, or that they’re spending so much time focusing on their kids that they are falling behind in their jobs.
1) SHUT OUT NEGATIVITY
This includes both the voices in your head that are telling you that you just can’t do it, and also any external sources of negativity that you have going on. Maybe your friends or your boss or even your husband are telling you that they don’t think you can handle it? If you have people in your life, even virtual people on social media, who are not being supportive and are breathing negativity into your life, just shut it out.
I actually like to use negativity to push myself even harder. If someone tells me I can’t do something that then spurs me on to work even harder to prove them wrong. If someone is telling you they don’t think you have what it takes to get that promotion or to start up that business, show them that you can do it.
ACTION STEP: Shut out any negative voices, whether they are in your head or external.
2) BE PRESENT WHEN YOU’RE AT HOME
When you’re not working and you have taken time off away from your desk to be with your family, make sure you are really with them. Don’t be responding to emails. Don’t be answering phone calls from people at work. Don’t be worrying about the next thing that you need to do in your business. Be present with your family when it comes to that time. Let them know that when you’re finished with work that is their focused time with you.
The best way to do this is to decide on a time when you are going to finish work, and when that time comes turn your computer and even your phone off. That way you won’t be tempted to check your notifications or see if you have any new messages. Anyone who needs to reach you can wait. At that moment, your family is the priority.
ACTION STEP: When you finish work shut off your computer and phone, and focus completely on your family.
3) FULLY COMMIT WHEN YOU ARE AT WORK
As a mother you may not have as much time to get all your work done as someone without kids, which means you have to be really intentional and clever with how you use your time. When you’re at work or you’re sitting down to work on your business, you need to be there 100%. You need to be putting in the maximum effort and getting the most out of the time that you’re working.
As difficult as it is to switch off from your family, try not to be distracted while you’re at work. If you’re in a corporate job resist the temptation to text your husband or the babysitter every half an hour to make sure the kids are okay, as it will pull your focus. If you work from home, use nap times so that you’re not distracted by the baby, or if your kids are older see if you can get them settled down with a ‘quiet time’ activity. Explain to them that now is mummy’s time to work, and if they’re good and let you focus you’ll be able to spend lots of time playing with them after you’ve finished.
Another tip is to write out a to-do list for your work day. Those are the things that you need to achieve before you leave work that day.
ACTION STEP: Create a to-do list for your work day and put in the maximum effort to complete this list by the time you finish.
4) HAVE A VARIETY OF ROUTINES IN PLACE
When you’re a working mother your schedule can change a lot. If you have a routine for the days when you’re at home and you don’t have any work to be doing, it’s not really going to apply for those days when you do have work. So try creating a routine for your days off, and then also a routine for your work day, and if you have a varying schedule like I do you may want to create a different routine for each type of work day.
What this does is it helps you to stay on track. Your routine won’t be thrown out of the window when you’ve got to work because you’ve got that routine already in place. You’ll still be able to do your housework and spend time with your husband and kids, but it may look a little bit different to those days when you’re home all day with no work to do.
This tip also works really well for those days when you have something different going on, like Church on Sundays or your child’s sporting activities.
ACTION STEP: Create a few different routines for different scenarios and work days.
5) CONSTANTLY RE-EVALUATE YOUR LIFE BALANCE
There are going to be times when you fall out of balance. There’s nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately things will come up in your work life where you do need to spend a bit more time working. Maybe you’ve got a big project on, or a tight deadline, or a potential promotion coming up. When there are more things clamouring for your attention, it’s highly likely that you’ll start to feel yourself falling out of balance. The important thing is that you recognise this and are able to bring your life back into balance after that period of busyness has passed.
The way to do this is to constantly re-evaluate. At least once a month (but ideally weekly) sit down and have a look at how you are spending your time. On an average day, how much time are you spending on the following things:
- Home (cleaning, cooking, tidying etc)
- Daily (eating, general hygiene, getting dressed etc)
Once you’ve taken stock of your average day, look at it and ask yourself if it is balanced. Are you spending enough time on each of these areas of your life?
ACTION STEP: Get out a piece of paper (or print out the PDF that I have created for you below) and start evaluating how you are spending your time on an average day.
6) PLAN AHEAD
This is important for everyone, but especially working mothers. If you can get yourself prepped and ready the night before, your tomorrow is going to go so much smoother. If you get your bags packed and lunches made and outfits laid out ready, that’s one less thing you need to think about in the morning. You’re going to be far less stressed out which, in turn, means you’ll be able to spend more quality time with your kids in the morning. Imagine having time to sit down and read the Bible with them or snuggle on the sofa with them, instead of rushing around trying to get lunches sorted. That’s what evening prep can do for you.
If you’re a stressed out, frazzled mess in the mornings and you’re barely saying good morning to your kids, I highly encourage you to make sure you’re as planned and prepared as possible the night before.
ACTION STEP: Start prepping and planning as much as you can the night before.
7) SAY GOODBYE TO THE GUILT
Mum guilt hits us all in one way or another, but for working mothers it can sometimes feel unbearable.
“Am I abandoning my kids?”
“Will they think I don’t love them?”
“Will they love the babysitter more than me?”
“I should be playing with them instead of staring at a computer screen!”
These are all worries that can go through our heads. You’re going to feel guilty at times. It’s a natural thing that creeps up into every mother’s mind. But I want to encourage you to think of that guilt as one of those negative voices that we switched off in step one.
At the end of the day, if you’re working on a business or going out to work, you’re doing what’s best for your kids and your particular family’s circumstances. You’re bringing in an income. You’re providing for them. You’re letting them see what hard work is all about and teaching them the value of money. If your work is something you’re truly passionate about you’re going to be a better mother for doing it. The last thing you want is to resent your kids for making you give up your dreams. Pursue the things you’re passionate about and don’t let anyone tell you that you should feel guilty for doing that. As long as your kids are loved for and cared for, that’s all that matters.
ACTION STEP: Write down all the good things about your work life and why it’s important to you.
8) ASK FOR HELP
Please, please, please don’t feel bad about getting a babysitter when you need one. If your mum can come round and watch the kids while you get a couple of hours work done, they’re not going to feel neglected. They’re going to be excited that nanny is round playing with them!
If you need help, ask for it. Maybe you don’t need a babysitter, maybe you need help with a project at work. Consider delegating some things to others if you just have too much to do. Give yourself the grace to ask for help. And remember, you can always ask the Lord for help. He is there for you and He will provide for you.
ACTION STEP: Think about what you need help with and ask for it.
9) SAY NO TO WORK PROJECTS THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO
If a project or opportunity comes up that you don’t really need to do and it’s not going to massively benefit you or further your career, don’t feel bad about turning it down. If it’s too much for you, explain to your boss that you’re not going to have the time and maybe he’d be better off asking someone else. If it’s your own business and you’re putting expectations onto yourself, it’s okay to decide that you’re too busy for a certain project at the moment.
When you start saying no to the unimportant things that crop up, it frees up your time so that you can really focus on completing the projects that you already have and doing them to the best of your ability. It’s far better to get one amazing project finished than to have million of half-finished projects that aren’t your best work.
ACTION STEP: Next time a project or opportunity comes up, really think about whether or not it is worth it and necessary for you.
10) REMEMBER THAT BUSINESS MEETINGS AND DEADLINES CAN BE PUSHED BACK, BUT YOU CAN NEVER GET BACK TIME WITH YOUR KIDS.
That soccer practice that your child has invited you to – he’s never going to score that goal again. If your kid has invited you to a school play – they’re never going to perform in it again. The first steps or the first time they say ‘mama’ – that’s never going to happen again. If you miss them, that’s it, they’re gone. So try to put things into perspective when you’re trying to decide if your priority should be your kids or your business.
You’re kids don’t always have to come first. Sometimes you do genuinely need to spend time on your business or your work. But if you start to notice yourself focusing too much on work and not enough on your kids, just remember that that’s time you’re never going to get back. They’re only small for a really short amount of time. When your kids turn 18 and go off to college, you don’t want to be looking back and regretting the amount of time your spent during their childhood staring at a computer screen or putting in extra shifts at work.
You can always push deadlines back or re-schedule meetings. You can always spend a little bit longer trying to reach that goal in your business. But what you can’t do is get back that time with your kids.
ACTION STEP: Be really careful when choosing between work and life, and make sure you’re not choosing work too much.
That’s all for today. Don’t forget to grab your free work / life balance timecard and please do share a picture of your timecard with me over on Instagram. You can tag me @homemakersinaction or use the special hashtag #myhomeinaction 🙂