I have been a working mom for nearly three years and am currently pregnant with baby No. 2. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can’t have it all — at least not all at one time. One of the biggest adjustments I’ve made is to stop viewing balance in the days or weeks, and instead embrace a season’s perspective. I try to dedicate more energy to the domains that need me most — at that time.
The work/life balance and “have it all” mentality has long been a hot topic of discussion among working parents. I have spent years poring over articles and books attempting to discover the secret, with little success. When I understood I needed to first redefine what work/life balance means, I found my stride.
Here are the top three strategies I’ve implemented to help me achieve balance.
Once I shifted my thinking to believe that work/life balance doesn’t happen in the days or weeks, but across the year(s), I was able to make a more realistic plan for living the life I wanted. As a planner and calendar lover, making a road map for the year was a dream!
Begin by laying out your business goals and deadlines for the year and other non-negotiables (e.g., for me, that’s having a BABY!). Plug in family commitments, vacations, school holidays, etc. Find time to focus on your own personal development and wellness. And if you are partnered, let’s not forget to weave them into the plan.
In my case, this year I will be spending Q1 head down and focused on work, because there’s a lot I need to accomplish before the little one arrives in May. This makes sense for me, considering I will take time off after she’s born to be in mommy mode. To me, this is balance. In January I hired a mother’s helper to come over in the afternoons so I can work longer hours during this season. I may miss out on quality family time during the first part of the year, but I know I can make it up this summer. This also helps me plan for what kind of support I need from my tribe.
Find Your Tribe
A majority of families are braving this big bad world out on their own. Many live far from family, have two full-time working parents, and have forgotten how to ask for help.
I am guilty of all of this.
Parenting is hard. Working is hard. Being a wife is hard.
You know what makes it easier (aside from a crisp glass of chardonnay)? Learning how to lean on your community and ask for help.
It is physically impossible to do it all, and the more you can build in support, the more successful you will be. This may mean investing in more paid childcare or outsourcing household tasks like house cleaning, grocery shopping (hello, Instacart) and meal planning (SunBasket has revolutionized weekday dinners in our household). For us, we’ve decided to welcome an au pair from Columbia to live with us for a year — we simply cannot do this alone.
Define who is willing to help, and ask. Make friends with like-minded people who are in the same life stage. This has been my saving grace.
We’ve all heard this before, but truly, you cannot be the best for your family and clients if you are not your best self. Even if you create the “perfect” schedule that looks balanced, you will not feel the benefits operating on auto-pilot (I call this robot mode). I am so guilty of putting myself last, and this is the area I have the most room for growth.
What I do know is that if I’m feeling irritable and resentful, the source always comes back to me not taking care of myself. This is when I get my booty out to nature for a solo hike. Sometimes all it takes is one restful bath with my favorite essential oils. Other times it means building in a three-day solo retreat to Sedona to re-calibrate. (True story, I made this happen after my husband returned from a nine-week work trip in Australia last summer.)
Making time for self-care is not easy, but I never regret it. In fact, I return to my normal life more centered. I’m a better mom, employee and wife as a result. No fail. Every time.
I cannot claim to have it all figured out, but ever since I redefined work/life balance, I have been more successful. With this slight shift in mindset, I have learned that I can have it all, just not at the same time.