Do you struggle with maintaining an appropriate and healthy balance between work and family life? If so, you’re not alone. Whether you’re a single, working parent, a married person with a flourishing career, a student, or a stay-at-home mom or dad (or any combination or variation of these), chances are you find yourself torn between your professional duties and your personal life much of the time.
I am a busy, working mother of two equally busy teenagers, an extremely needy but adorable dog, two sassy cats, and two vocal and messy birds. Between work, making sure that my children have everything they need to be successful in school and life, taking care of our household, and trying to maintain relationships with family and friends...well, I’m not going to lie. I feel burnt out almost every day. When I’m working, I feel like I should be home with my kids. When I’m home with my kids, I feel like I should be working. When I’m doing either, I feel like I should be paying bills or getting my car washed or doing some other chore that always seems to fall by the wayside.
Before anyone objects to the tone of this blog, I must clarify one thing...I realize that I’m very fortunate. I might sound like I’m complaining, but that absolutely isn't my intention. I am very appreciative of my supportive husband, my kids who work hard and try their best in school, my family members who are always willing to help and would be there for me in a heartbeat, and my friends who would do the same. I realize that I am luckier than most when it comes to having an excellent support system. Despite all of that, there are still moments when I do feel completely overwhelmed and overburdened.
As most people do, I have learned to find a cadence which allows me to function in life and try my best in all areas. I have learned to let things go (like my house for example...I just do not have time to keep a shiny, sparkling house anymore...and that’s okay). I’ve figured out what is most important to me personally, and how I choose to spend my time. I’ve also learned that dry shampoo and wrinkle release spray are lifesavers.
Here are a few tips that allow you to achieve some semblance of work/life balance. I’ve learned these along the way and thought I’d share with you...
Stop Feeling Guilty...Right Now!
I used to beat myself up because I couldn’t be everything for everybody. I wanted to be a perfect wife, mother, daughter, friend, and citizen. But I fell woefully short of perfect all too many times, and then I would be very hard on myself. But there was just no way that I could complete all my work tasks, be on the PTO, volunteer for charitable organizations, have a clean and tidy home, and lunch with my friends on a weekly basis. Unless I gave up sleeping, which--let’s face it--wouldn’t be good for anybody.
Sometime in my late 30’s/early 40’s, I learned that there’s no such thing as perfect. That, and you simply have to learn how to say “no.” And here’s the biggest trick...say “no” and then don’t feel bad about it! It’s okay to not have the time or the desire to do that last load of laundry (trust me, it will still be there for you in the morning...taunting you and increasing in mass by the second). It’s also okay to not go on your child’s 18th field trip of the year. They will still have fun without you, I promise. In my son’s case, he probably had MORE fun without me. But I digress. It’s also perfectly fine to tell your friends, “Look...I’m just feeling really overwhelmed this week. I don’t think I can get together until next week.” If they’re true friends, they’ll understand and appreciate your honesty. They may even feel a little relieved because they’re feeling much the same way!
Put Everything Aside and Take Some Time for Yourself
The fact of the matter is, in today’s hectic world, there is always something you "should" be doing. Do you need to go to the gym more? Probably. Should you tackle that work project that you keep delaying because you’d honestly rather clean your toilet than work on it? Absolutely. Should you venture to the grocery store because your children are currently subsisting on Twizzlers, pretzels and Coke Zero, like mine have been known to do? Most definitely. However, if you don’t take care of yourself and find some type of relaxing activity, you’re not going to be a healthy person. You need rest. And calm moments. And frankly, you just need “to be.” Whether relaxation for you is going out with friends, putting Netflix on and drinking wine, scrapbooking, or running five miles...you do YOU. Whatever is going to relax and center you, and rejeuvanate you for the tasks that lie ahead.
The Longest Journey Begins with One Step
I’ve been known to complain to my husband when I feel like my to-do list is overwhelming. He always comes up with the same solution every single time. And it’s taken me a long time, but I finally have realized that his solution is kind of brilliant. He says, “Just do one thing.” At first, I would scoff and tell him that he’s being completely unhelpful and doesn’t quite understand the magnitude of all that I have to do (even though he does...he is quite a busy individual himself). But you know what? It’s also pretty excellent advice. Because even if you just do one thing on your list, you feel a sense of accomplishment and realize that it’s an empowering and fulfilling feeling. And I don’t know why, but it also gives you the impetus you need to tackle task #2. Plus, it’s one less thing you have to do tomorrow, right?
So, there you have it. Three suggestions for how you can achieve sanity amidst the chaos. Stop with the guilt, make some time for yourself, and get cracking on that to-do list, even if it just means doing one small thing. And if all else fails, there’s always wine. Wine makes everything better. Good luck!