As a mother of two young girls, tackling two different roles in my own start-up, and working in a social media marketing agency, I often wonder whether work-life balance is a real thing. I do experience times when, despite being in high demand, everything seems to run smoothly and I move in and out of my different responsibilities effortlessly. Other times it just seems like juggling work and family is a complete joke.
Being part of the workforce shapes my identity and allows my family to indulge in a certain lifestyle. In the digital age, I’m available 24/7, although I’m already spending the majority of my days in the office. On top of that I receive notifications from all different social media channels, emails, and apps that tell me I should exercise more and answer tons of calls during the day.
When my friend Jenny tries to call me at 1 pm but I am stuck in the middle of responding to an email, I figure I can speak to her at school pick up…oh hang on, did school finish at 1 pm today. Bugger! I should really start reading the school newsletter!
As I look at my sleeping little preppie later that night I feel a sharp sting in my chest and well up with tears. Not only did I struggle to respond to all the urgencies at work, but I also let my beautiful daughter down and forgot to pick her up from school. The image of a freckly little person in the schoolyard waiting for her mum completely broke my heart.
The hard days are painful. But what can we learn from the successful days where things go well? The days when we feel we have all bases covered?
1. Make sure you look after yourself.
Think of your personal well-being as a jar that needs filling up before you can share the contents with others. Most articles about work-life balance mention self-care as the last thing. I want to make a point that this comes first! Eat well, sleep enough, exercise to keep your body intact, and take time to look at the sky. I recently wrote an article Into the Wild for Sanity, which focused on the benefits of spending time outside regularly. Where else will you find that extra bit of patience for your children when, after a full day, they ask you to read another story or need a glass of water when they should already be asleep?
2. Remind yourself of your hierarchy of values.
Have you ever written down your list of values and classified them according to their importance?
If not, you may want to grab a pen right now
- Write down your hierarchy of values including career, family, finances, health and fitness, spirituality, professional development and relationships.
- Start ranking your values according to their importance (at this moment in time).
- Try to connect with your true core and your personal values as opposed to what may be expected from you.
- Only if you can be honest and true to yourself, can the hierarchy of values list can reveal useful information and perhaps even shed some life transforming insight.
- You might be surprised at the results. Perhaps you identify that family clearly comes before career, but then realize that work takes up much more of your time and energy than you give to your family.
- You might want to ask yourself “Why do I let the people I love slide into the background?” when so often I have witnessed people say “I wish I had spent less time working and more time with my children when they were growing up”?
Be inspired by this beautiful story focusing on making time for life priorities
3. Set clear boundaries around work time.
We get caught up in the demands of our jobs as they are getting more and more complex. The 9 to 5 workweek has become a shadow of the past. I can remember my dad coming home at 3:30 pm every day after starting work at 6:30 am. In a senior role as the second in command of a power station, his job was demanding and high-stress, yet he set clear boundaries around his work time. People trusted and valued him and did not think less of him as he packed up his black briefcase every afternoon at 3 pm sharp, wishing everyone a nice rest of the day as he left. Everyone else did the same thing – they went home after the eight hours of work they were paid to do and saw their children in the daylight.
Does the thought of turning off your phone seem like an extremely difficult task? Try it anyway. I did it last week and I’m still here; nothing bad happened. I can’t say it was easy, though. For the first half hour I felt an awkward mix of existential angst, and went through different scenarios of what could happen while I was disconnected. Well, nothing bad happened. The people most important to me were right there, happy to be getting my full attention for an hour. And while it is not possible every day, it taught me that a few minutes here and there can have a big impact. Furthermore, I got their full attention and everyone packed up and left the park happy.
You’ve probably read all of these suggestions somewhere before use them as a reminder to check-in with yourself and how you are managing the juggle.
Is it in line with your real values or just the way you did it yesterday?