“Work-life balance.” Do you hear this phrase all the time but find that it is far easier to say, than to actually maintain? Life is busy for all of us. Regardless of your particular work and home commitments - things can just get hectic at times. The weeks seem to fly by faster and faster and more likely than not, life is not going to slow down anytime soon.
Since having my daughter, Taylor 19 months ago, I've found that I feel quite a bit different about how I choose to spend my time. After my maternity leave ended, I went back to work full time. Within the first two months of being back at work, I determined that being away from Taylor five days out of my week was not ideal and I began to dread Monday’s. Graciously, my employer allowed me to drop down to a 24 hour work week (working one of those days at home). I’ve been working part time for the last 15 months and it has proven to be an amazing balance for me. I feel like I get the best of both worlds. Plenty of time at home with Taylor and just enough time at work to keep me on my toes and keep my wheels turning. I know my situation is unique and not everyone has this opportunity; and for that I am truly thankful.
One thing that we are all in control of is the ability to check in with ourselves and our spouses to determine where we have capacity to give more and where we may be stretched too thin. When everyday life feels more like a daily grind of eat, sleep, work, repeat; I start to get frustrated and overwhelmed. It is paramount to our emotional health and that of our family members, that we evaluate our current situation (in terms of hours spent working versus hours spent with family), and determine whether or not we are truly satisfied. Are you left feeling like you don’t see your children or spouse as much as you’d like? Or are you being pulled in 100 different directions and feel like you are constantly treading water to stay afloat? We only have so much time and energy to give out each day. It’s crucial that we keep in mind that time is precious. By prioritizing what is most important to me, I am able to manage all of my responsibilities more efficiently. I find that I feel much better and more ready to conquer a work week when I know that all of my tasks and duties are attainable, and will still leave me with plenty of time to spend with my family. I wish each week could be like that.
When the weeks get crazy in my household, here are some small ways I carve out extra quality time with my loved ones:
- Skip my lunch break and leave work 30 minutes early so that I get that extra time with Taylor at the end of the day.
- Allow Taylor to play in a designated “safe cabinet” in the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner so that she feels like she is helping me.
- I try not to over commit myself socially when I know a certain week is going to be super busy. It’s OK to tell friends or family “no” every once in a while.
- If I’m in dire need of a workout to relieve some stress but don’t want to drop Taylor off at the gym daycare when she’s already been at daycare all day, I’ll take her on a long walk or a jog in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the culture in North America doesn’t always support the ideology that family should be put first and work, second. In order for us to be successful and provide for our families, we often have to put our families second, third or even last sometimes.
Every so often, something traumatic will happen to someone I know, or I will read an article that makes me think twice about the work-life balance maintained in my family. But why does it take hearing about these isolated events and awful stories in the news to put things into perspective for us personally? It shouldn’t be that way. A healthy balance is a work in progress for me, but it is something that I believe is truly important and key to a happy home life.
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The most important thing is to really be in the moment when you're there with your family. I know stay at home Mom's that pay less attention to their kids than Moms that work 40 hours a week. In my experience, when you're there all the time it's easy to take that blessing for granted and not spend quality time with the kids, whereas people who are forced to be away make the little bit of time they do have really count.