A good friend of mine Jacq recently asked me to write an article on worklife balance for her new blog - workwifebalance.blogspot.com. Jacqs is an incredibly talented, creative, intelligent, inspiring, loving and giving women and in her spare time on maternity leave from a high level HR role, with soon to be 3 kids, she is going to work on her creative side. I totally recommend following her and her journey! In the mean time it gave me a flavour of writing and I decided I'd give this blogging thing a go - so here goes!
The work life juggle - What a week to be writing about Work Life Balance (WLB). For a working mother of 3 little noisy, rough, loving and yet very often grubby little boys, I refrain from calling it BALANCE and more like a form of BLEND.
I blend a part-time (4 day a week) permanent corporate role in with running a household, being involved in the kids school and sporting life, attending boot camps and running a coaching and consulting business. This week in particular has been a little more crazy than normal with a 2 day work trip to wellington in the middle, plus sorting out 3 new business opportunities and sorting the house out for 3 sets of visitors/friends coming over in the weekend.
You see balance to me means everything is evenly split in the way of my time and energy – and that’s just not the case and I’d be pushing poo up hill to try and make it so. Balance makes me think of walking along a tight rope and if you’re not balanced then you fall. So for me there is no balance and I don’t think for the short to medium term there ever will be.
To be honest that’s not what I want. I’m happy with my blend approach. Some days my paid employment is a bit slower than others and I have breathing space to plan life both in and out of work. On my paid ‘working from home’ day (yes I have one of those once a week and its great and totally helps with the balance/ blend thing) I get things done around the house (mainly washing), drop off and collect kids at bell time with the other school mums, and get good thinking time in the space and quiet of my home office to get a lot off the paid work ‘to do’ list. On my off days I swap the paid employment part of my day with coaching clients and building client relationships. All the while checking paid employment emails so I am seen as constantly on and responsive.
My typical working day is:
5.40am – up and out the door by 6.40am, lunches made and school bags packed (all done the night before), dinner out of freezer, and leaving hubby to get kids to before school care for a 7.15am drop off so he can make his 7.30am train.
7.30am – at my desk and making a cuppa. Maybe then get a 10min Mindfulness track in before others get into the office. (to be honest this last part happens only maybe once a week at the moment)
8am – 4.15pm – meetings, coaching sessions and preparing for various training workshops or writing reports. Lunchtime is often sorting out Dr’s appointments, plumbers or whatever the household needs.
4.15pm – Out the door to sit in traffic for an hour.
5.30pm – Walk in the door after collecting the kids from 2 different pickups. Referee the fight over who’s going to check the mail box.
5.45pm – all kids bribed to get into the shower by the promise of a marshmallow
6.30pm – hubby home and dinner on the table. Dinner consists of something easy to make, often a left over meal made in the weekend from the freezer, or the easy go–to of chicken or tuna wraps...and if I’m really desperate then baked beans and sausages.
7.20pm – Between hubby and I the kitchen is cleaned up, lunches made for the next day, washing hung up (that was put in the machine when the kids were in the shower) and onto reading, spelling or stories.
7.45pm- teeth and the fight over who mummy and daddy are going to say goodnight too first. Each child watches the clock as each parent says good night to each boy. They all get 5mins each….
8.20pm – still saying goodnight – this part very often drags on because we said goodnight to ‘so and so’ longer than you said goodnight to me…. (To be honest I don’t mind it dragging on as this is my most favourite part of my whole entire day as it’s my 1:1 time with each of them whilst snuggled up in their warm bed)
8.30pm – look at pile of clean washing in the basket at the end of our bed – then turn around and walk out of bedroom – collapse on couch to watch a fix of ‘Suits’, OR log on and work on my coaching business work, or paid employment work if I haven't managed to get something finished that day.
10.00pm- Pick up washing in basket at end of bed and place it to the side of the room where I can’t see it. Lights out.
5.40am – Repeat.
Sometimes this schedule differs and I head to a boot camp class at 7pm Monday night, 6am on a Wednesday morning, or 7am on a Saturday morning – but more or less it’s the same. Weekends revolve around football games, seeing family or friends – and generally sneaking in another 2 - 3 hours work in sometime over the weekend when needed.
What my boys love is routine through all of this. They know the days they go to before and after school care, they know its gym night on a Monday for mum, Taco Tuesdays, take aways on a Friday and soup Sunday and family movie on a Sunday. Life works right now, yes I’m busy but I’m happy this way – I’m not looking for balance. I’m looking for satisfaction in the key areas of my life that matter right now. And I have that. Some weeks I might not make the gym at all (I haven't been for 10 days now as I've hurt my calf), I might have a week of eating out, I may not see or speak to any friends or family, or I may not get any of my private business work done. But thats OK – swings and roundabouts.
Friends, colleagues and clients ask me how I manage my life both in the way of keeping everything afloat, keeping the motivation, and keeping the energy and drive. Well I have a few things in place that help support me;
1) An amazingly supportive and hands on husband – he’s just awesome.
2) A great employer who is happy to support me to run my own business on the side and also allows me the flexibility with my work in the way of my hours and where and how I do my work. As long as I'm delivering what I need at the best level possible then they are all good with how and where I do it.
3) An i-phone - the worlds best organiser and sorter of everything from which I run 2 calendars and 3 email accounts, check the weather, bank accounts, message friends, track where my hubby is (yes you can honestly do that), keep up to date on news and search google.
4) I generally eat well - high protein for breakfast, good snacks and some multivitamins. I recently started a health programme called Isagenix which has been working for me as a complimentary nutrition system and has helped with energy levels.
5) Preparation – lunches the night before, making meals over the weekend, working out what I’m going to wear to work the night before and setting it out, getting dinner out of the freezer in the morning etc.
6) A great day-care and after school programme where I know the kids are well cared for and loved
7) Some good local friends and supportive parents who are within an hours drive, who help with last minute emergencies; and
8) Goals – if you haven’t worked it out yet I’m pretty goal focused.
With my coaching clients I often use a picture of a circle/ pie diagram to help them work out their ideal balance - blend mix. I’ll take key areas of a persons life, such as career/ work, personal development, family, key relationships, health, money etc and identify how satisfied they are with each, how much of the pie each area makes up and how much they would like it to be. We then focus on the one or two key areas that would make the most difference for them. I explain that if we were to put in 100% energy into each of the areas of our life we would be considered Super Women – and how realistic is this, although god knows we deserve that title a lot of the time.
It's also worth noting that this work life juggle thing isn't just a women thing, or a mum thing. I have single friends, couple friends without kids and bloke friends who also find the balance thing a challenge. We all tend to put pressure on ourselves to be all things too all people and expect a lot of ourselves to be perfect in all we take on - and that just ain't sustainable, or real.
So rather than giving yourself a hard time for not having BALANCE, give yourself a break, take a more holistic view and just BLEND – it’s much easier mentally, and you’re not failing to be balanced or not – you're just BEING, which by the way is another great B word!