The first time I seriously focused on work-life balance was when I returned to work after my first-born, like so many other parents. Seven years and another child later, I’m still chasing it. Don’t get me wrong – on some days I nail it and I’m beaming like the child whose just got the last treat. On other days I’m like a shrieking banshee that would make even the neighbours run from their houses.
I went through a stage when I felt my career had stalled. In the earlier days the calls from day-care were non-stop as the kids caught every cold, snot and infections. I still remember quite vividly a full eight weeks of having to leave work early because bub had vomited, had a high temperature, an ear infection… the list went on. I felt guilty for having to put my family first and work second, especially as I had only gone back to work.
That mum-guilt has subsided somewhat though and I think it’s down to two things. One is I’m getting older and caring less what others think – family comes first. Second is due to a more flexible workplace. In the early days of being a mum I wouldn’t have called my workplace ‘flexible’. However that has changed dramatically over the years, and it’s all thanks to better technology allowing me to be mobile and a realisation for the company that if you provide your staff with flexibility, more often than not you get more out-put from them.
As the kids got older my focus on work-life balance changed to suit the life stage we were in. Right now I work four days a week. On the days I’m in the office my husband does before-school care drop off and I do after-school pick-up. On the mornings I work I’m out the door by 625am and this allows me to get to the gym so exercise is done and I’ve got a bit of sanity before the work-day starts. It’s a long day for the boys but it’s all they’ve ever known. When they were at day-care they would be there from about 730am – 530pm and they still turned out fine 😊
Everyone’s idea of work-life balance is different because everyone’s circumstances are different. But I do believe there are some tips that can be applied no matter what stage you’re at. As I said earlier, some days I feel like I’ve nailed that balance. And other days, well it’s just best not to ask. Here are some strategies that have helped me feel a bit more organised since the kids arrived.
- Set up a month by month calendar. I live by this! I’m a pen and paper girl so prefer this to digital calendars. It shows what we have on, what school activities are happening and when (two different library days!), what’s coming up on the weekends etc. The template I use is here Template – Month by month (it couldn’t be any more simplistic). It’s stuck on the back of our pantry door and everyone knows where it is so if they need to check a date they can.
- Meal plan. This tip is an oldy but it works. I get the school lunches done the night before no matter how tired I am (I once left it until the morning of – big mistake. Think shrieking banshee…). I have a meal plan stuck on our fridge for weekly dinners. I started this about two years ago and it was the best thing I’ve done. Within saying that if we’ve had a crap day or don’t feel like what’s on the menu, we’ll switch days around and have something else or order mid-week takeaway (shocking, I know!!).
- Do something for you. For me it’s getting to the gym. I feel less stressed once I’ve done some exercise. For you, it might be yoga or pilates, meditation, a walk around the block, a manicure – whatever it is, fit it into your work-life balance.
- Laundry. I only wash clothes on the weekend because there are other priorities during the week and I don’t want piles of clothes sitting around drying every day. Pick a day and wash like you’ve never washed before!!
- Restrict kid’s activities. Last year we nearly killed ourselves with early morning weekend activities. There were no sleep-ins – we had 730am swim lessons on Saturdays and 8am Taekwondo lessons on Sundays. This year I’ve moved swimming to during the week, cancelled Taekwondo (the youngest was practising his dancing skills rather than focusing on what the karate teacher was showing him!). Both kids are doing soccer but it’s a defined season so I can deal with that. The change has been massive. Now the weekends feel more relaxed and I’m not dreading the morning alarm going off seven days a week.
Do you have any other tips or tricks that have worked for you?