Work-life balance. It sounds lovely, right? Finishing work in the allocated hours, making it to dance class (on time), not burning the gluten-free brownies required for the kids’ cake stall, hitting the gym for that recommended 30 minutes of cardio, cooking a fantastically healthy and delicious dinner, enjoying some quality family/couple/mummy time AND sleeping an uninterrupted eight hours.
Sure, in a perfect world, we could do it. One where the average day has 55 hours, where plans never change and where we all commute to work on magical unicorns that poop glitter.
But guess what? Finding that happy medium to balance all of our roles and responsibilities is seriously impossible. Well, in a 24-hour time frame at least. So let’s be real and forget about finding that work-life balance. Instead, let’s focus on work-life blending. It’s a lot more realistic. And it doesn’t involve glitter-pooping unicorns.
Why Work-Life Balance Isn’t Working
We all wear a number of hats on a regular basis. We’re employees (or business owners). We’re wives (or partners). We’re friends. We’re members of a community. We’re probably members of a few groups and organisations too. And, best of all, we’re mums. But, underneath all of these hats, we’re only one person.
Work-life balance tends to forget this. Just because we’re meant to be wearing our Mum Hat doesn’t mean a deadline will just magically go away. It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. And just because we’re at work doesn’t mean we stop being mums. Any parent who has received a dreaded “your child is sick” phone call from day-care and has had to leave work early (and bring the guilt with them) can relate to this.
Sometimes work seeps into our home life and sometimes our home life comes to work with us. This isn’t a problem at all. The problem stems from the fact that we assume it doesn’t have to be this way – that we can find that balance and separate these different threads. And when we can’t, it feels like we’re failing on all fronts.
The truth is that the deadlines and the dirty dishes, the cuddles and the conference calls, the errands and the emails, the meal planning and the meetings – they are all part of us. They all flow together. So why try to separate them? Work-life blending is all about embracing the daily hats we wear and the chaos that comes with them. It’s about prioritising the things we need to find time for each day, and about letting some things go. Here are a few tips on accepting that work-life blend and making it work for your family: Prioritise!
Our generation have been told it’s completely possible to have it all. I blame social media for this belief. And caffeine. But it’s not sustainable to be juggling all these different things. Eventually, the balls are going to come crashing down.
You don’t need to be doing ALL the things.
Sometimes, you can say no to attending yet another school assembly. Some days, you can skip the gym. And some nights, you can choose sleep. It’s okay to skip things. It doesn’t make you a bad mum, a bad co-worker, a bad friend, or a bad person. It simply makes you human.
Think about what matters to you most. And put those on top of your to-do lists. Every. Single. Day.
Track your progress
Although it’s adding another thing to do to your list, tracking how you’re doing can be a great way to put things into perspective. Similar to gratitude journaling, tracking your progress can actually leave you feeling less stressed, more appreciative and more confident that you’re doing a good job.
Jot down a few ways you’re winning at the different elements of your life. This doesn’t have to be a daily thing – a weekly thing works too. Just be sure to stick to the positives.
• Made three sales at work
• Picked the kids up on time EVERY DAY this week
• Walked the dog three times
• Cooked four meals the kids actually ate without whinging
Writing these things down is a great way to prove to yourself that, yes, you’re a work-life blending queen. If you are having trouble finding positives and feel like you’re not quite getting it, make adjustments. Jotting things down is good for this too.
Accept that blending can be messy It can mean managing three tasks at once and pushing two other things to the side. But multi-tasking is something we parents are already experts at!
So embrace your inner master multi-tasker. Just make sure you give yourself time to breathe and, if you start to burn out, stop, take a step back or ask for help.
You don’t have to do everything on your own. Part of finding that perfect blend is sharing the load with those around you. Get the kids to help out where they can. Look into outsourcing some of the tedious tasks that you keep skipping or that can easily be done by someone else. For many parents, hiring someone to do the cleaning, for example, can free up a valuable two hours a week for family time.
Ditch the guilt
This is by far the hardest thing for us parents to do.
We have so many things going on that it’s natural to feel like we’re letting someone down if we can’t do it all. Don’t let that internal guilt get you down. The kids are going to be perfectly fine if you leave them with dad for an hour and go for a solitary walk for your own sanity. The world isn’t going to end if you don’t vacuum and mop the floors for a week. And the school isn’t going to collapse because you decided against taking your burned gluten-free brownies to the school cake stall.