“Balancing” work and family.
“Balancing” work and family.
We all know there is no “secret sauce” to miraculously transform the chaotic life balancing work and home into the proverbial “Hallmark Movie”. Each one of my four kids will tell you that I am obsessed with Hallmark movies, especially at Christmastime. They can’t understand why I love the predictable storyline that “always ends the same exact way, Mama, in the last 10 minutes of the movie!” I’ll tell you why I love them, it’s because they reflect manageable chaos with a big dose of romance and a nice tidy resolution bow at the end! Isn’t that what we would all like real life to be like?
But real life is messy. People (especially kids) are unpredictable and moody — oh boy do I understand moody as I near 4 teenagers in the house. They have needs that pop up at the most inconvenient time. While I generally can keep it together, especially in public, I too have been at the brink of exhaustion to the point of breaking down many times since becoming a parent 17 years ago.
I have, however, found some “tricks” that help me keep myself from losing it altogether. Perhaps you will find one or two things in the following list that will help you. Because creating margin — the space in life where all the wonderful things happen — is critical so that we have even a small chance to find the joy between the work and worry of parenthood (thanks for that pearl of wisdom, Mom).
· Find service providers who will come to your home. This saves valuable travel time, and when you have multiple kids...a tremendous amount of chaos and headache. We also found it saves a great deal of money. For example, we found a hair stylist who is willing to come to the house and spend 2-2 1/2 hours coloring (yes, got to wash that grey right out of my hair), cutting and styling 5 of us (husband still insists on going to his barber). We found a very talented and experienced woman. Believe me, I LOVE the salon and go there for special updo’s and occasions, but for every month...this can’t be beaten. We save a lot of money and the kids get to play when it’s not their turn! A piano teacher who, at one point, gave lessons to all 4 kids...while I got other things done, like dinner. A karate instructor who provides lessons in our garage for all of us — making it a family activity — we’ve done this for 5 years...a dramatically longer commitment than we would have made “dragging” the kids to a traditional dojo.
· Be militant with routines, especially bedtime. Okay, so I have to admit that I’ve been exceptionally good at this one FOR THE KIDS, but not so much for myself. I would change that if I could go back in time because my personal sleep quality suffered...but the kids are in great shape on this front.
· Bedrooms are for sleeping. No toys, no electronics of any kind. The only distraction in the bedroom to sleeping is books and stuffed animals.
· Get dressed at the start of the day. The only day we are allowed out of our rooms in our pajamas is Christmas Day. It’s so much harder to be lazy when you’re dressed.
· Repeat this mantra on a regular basis: “Is this project/time/effort something worthy of my obituary”? Sorry for the morbidity, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten my priorities screwed up and placed more value on work than family. I’m choosing not to dwell on that regret and make different choices for the future.
· Eat healthy meals. Limit sugar. Up the vegetables. DRINK lots of water (1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water per day). It’s shocking how transformative this is for a healthy mind...not to mention your skin and internal systems.
· Follow Brene’ Brown’s advice of writing the names of the people whose opinion of you REALLY matters on a “1x1” piece of paper. Keep it posted on your computer at work. It significantly helps choose whether to work another hour or go home.
· HOME versus WORK: In my experience, the more hours I spend at home, the more effective and productive my work time is. When I overextend, I’m not as clear, concise or efficient. I “twirl” as my good friend Annie says. When I get filled with family love, sleep and food, I am a POWERHOUSE at the office. Why work 10 hours when 8 gets more done when your “self-care” tank is full?
Believe me, I have been known to get caught up in the rat race of productivity and achievement. (Please stay tuned for another Blog Post on this subject). My favorite book last year was Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequest. I’ve ridiculously thought that I was going to WIN the race...achieve the results...all I had to do was push a little harder. Put in a few more hours. Sacrifice my health and my sanity and my true passions in life just a little more. And then...
Your little boy said 3 times, “Mama, listen to me”. To which I replied, while stirring dinner on the stove, “I am”...3 times. Then he said, “Mama, listen to me with your eyes”.
I’m listening. With my eyes, my ears, and my heart little man.