Work-life balance is something we definitely struggle with in our house. We run ourselves ragged trying to achieve all our goals, meet all our deadlines, and cross off the entire to-do list. All while trying to be good parents to our sweet girls.
We do a lot of this work thing, and not enough of this life thing. Sometimes I actually think work-life balance is just a myth someone made up just so people could drive themselves even crazier by trying to juggle yet another goal.
However, I’ve come to realize that work-life balance is an actual thing.
Work-life balance is critical for preventing burnout, anxiety disorders, and alleviating stress. Chronic stress is actually the most common health issues in the workplace.
This can cause health issues, such as:
- Digestive issues
- Body aches and pains
- Heart problems
- Mental health issues
- Mood swings
… and much more.
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Work-life balance is necessary, and it is sacred.
And it is extremely hard to achieve.
Today’s work day can virtually fit inside your pocket, nagging you with alerts of emails, more tasks, questions, and issues from the actual office. Work days are no longer left behind when you walk out of the office.
Or perhaps your office is actually in your home, like mine. Working from home means, quite literally, that you’re always at work. Or you’re always at home. Whichever way you want to look at it.
There’s a quote that I love.
“The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of own homes.“
It’s one of my favorites, because I believe in the sentiment behind these words. It is actually at the crux of my being.
Being a mother and a wife is everything that’s important to me. The love that exists within the walls of our own home is what drives me to keep achieving.
I never really thought about how working from home would upset the work-life balance I thought I’d achieved. I was jaded by the dream of not having to set an alarm at five am and have someone else watch my children during the day.
But, in some ways, it’s actually harder to be home.
Dirty dishes stare at me while I’m writing. Oversleeping has no consequences. Tomorrow’s another day, right?
For us, work-life balance is a more like a teetering seesaw.
Typically, I’m working when my husband is home in the evenings. And sometimes my husband is working even when he’s at home. After the girls go to bed, we spend some of our nights sitting next to each other at the kitchen table with our faces buried in laptops. This is our “down-time.”
Yes, I recognize how that’s the exact opposite what down-time really is, but it’s what we do.
Some weeks are better than others, and some weeks are just utterly exhausting. The seesaw.
So, lately, I’ve been wondering. Is work-life balance an achievable, attainable, real thing?
According to a 2014 article by the Washington Post, the average American work week consists of 47 hours.
Let me think. If we spend 40 physical hours at the office each week, what accounts for the other 7 hours?
Maybe you stay at the office for that extra time, or maybe you bring that work home with you, as many do.
This upsets the meaning of my favorite quote, because now the work that we are doing within the walls of our own home is actually WORK. Where’s the room for all that love?
So, how can we actually achieve work-life balance? How can we achieve our career goals and still have time for the good stuff with our families and friends?
Let’s see how.
Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.
That’s funny, right?
It can be easy to put things off when the only person holding you accountable is yourself. If you have a deadline on Friday, why do the work on Monday? This is especially an issue for me. It is easy for me to put things off to spend time cleaning the house or watching my favorite show while the girls are napping.
However, the work still needs done. This causes me to rush around at the eleventh hour, and the only person this hurts is me.
The work gets done, yes, but it is a struggle getting there. What could be a marathon instead turns into a high-speed dash.
Avoid procrastinating by creating daily goals. Write them down in a planner to keep everything organized.
I love the personalized Erin Condren planners for this reason. They include so many awesome extras, like folders and stickers, that truly making planning fun. Right now, you can get FREE planning stickers if you spend $40!
I also love using post-its to remind me whenever I need to get someting done. Stocking up on these post-it notepads is always a good idea.
When you complete the task, cross it off your list and feel that satisfaction of a job well done.
Don’t Mix Work and Play Spaces
Keeping work and play spaces separate is tough for me. I struggle with this, because I do a lot of writing when my girls are well-behaved. However, I do feel as though I’m always connected to my work.
As a freelance writer, I get work emails all throughout the day and night. Work offers can come at any point of the night, and I often need to respond quickly if I want to pick up that particular writing assignment. This is so tempting, because I love what I do now.
But sometimes I just need to say “no.”
I recommend keeping your work space defined to a particular area of your house. Don’t be like me and work in your bed or at your kitchen table.
Keep your computer or other work essentials at a desk or in a study if you have the space. Designating a space for your work will create the ability to leave it behind when you exit that area.
Related Post: Self-Care Sunday
Teach Your Child Self-Play
If you’re a work-from-home mom like me (or a work-from-home dad – like my husband is sometimes on the weekends), you know how valuable it is when your children can entertain themselves. This is a skill that all parents need to teach their kids.
It gives your kids the chance to explore their toys and learning how they want to, and it also gives you a few free minutes to send some emails, fold laundry, or cook dinner.
Here’s an awesome and helpful resource on many activities your kids can do without you, written by another mommy blogger, Rebecca – 25 Fun Ideas for Keeping Kids Busy So You Can Get Things Done. Her suggestions are great!
This also helps with the mom guilt, which is a real and powerful emotion. Whenever my girls are entertained with their toys, books, or puzzles, I don’t feel as bad when I need to tend to something else. However, when Lily is holding on to my leg or trying to put toys in my hand, I can’t help but feel guilty saying no to her.
Lily LOVES playing with this Leap Frog Tea and Cake set that is on sale now! It keeps her busy for a while, and it’s so cute to see her pass out the cake to her little stuffed animal friends!
She also loves Baby Shark (what kid doesn’t?) and puzzles like this one easily keep her entertained for a good half hour of self-play.
Here are a few other suggestions that work for us. Find what your kid enjoys and then stock up!
To achieve work-life balance, you’ll need to set boundaries for yourself. This can mean not taking your computer to the table or turning off your email alerts after six pm. Find out what works for you so that you can spend time unwinding after work is truly over for the day.
When Brad and I are working from home, even after a long day, we set time-limits on our work. We try to stick them, and then we plan something for afterwards. This can be as simple as watching our favorite show every Tuesday at 9 pm or playing a game of Scrabble when the kids go to bed on Saturday night. By setting boundaries, we spend time engaged with each other and our children, and this helps us reset for the next day ahead.
Plan Fun Family Activities
Everyday life can get chaotic. That’s just a simple fact.
Planning an event or outing on the weekends can give you something to look forward to when you are dealing with the mundane responsibilities that come with everyday life.
Plan to go to family-friendly places, like the museum, zoo, or playground. You can also plan to spend time with extended family by inviting them over for a football game or dinner party.
Take a walk around your neighborhood with this cute rose gold one.
Get what you need to get done in a timely manner so that you can truly leave work behind when you, well, leave work.
Take Advantage of you PTO
Do you have vacation time waiting to be used? Are you anxious to take time off because you have too much to do?
If you have the days, take them. Work will always be there, and everyone is entitled to a vacation. When you work hard, you will need to decompress for a week or two a year. This is why PTO is built into many work contracts. Many companies recognize that happier employees breed more productivity, which in turn increases profits.
Stop building up your PTO only to let it sit there, waiting for the day when you “have time.”
Dust off that PTO, make time for yourself, and plan a vacation or long-weekend to rejuvenate and relax.
To maintain a proper work-life balance, you need to be flexible. Being able to respond to family emergencies or push back soft deadlines when life gets a little crazy will help alleviate workplace stress and anxiety.
Learn to be okay with the fact that life, sometimes, gets in the way. After all, isn’t that the point?
Even though we constantly feel as if we need to be doing, striving, and reaching for more in our lives, sometimes we just need to stop and take a look at everything we already have. Take time to enjoy the simple things. They are often the best things.
Stop riding the seesaw, and start creating the work-life balance you deserve.
Hopefully you can take some of these tips and implement them into your life to help restore your work-life balance when things get a little crazy. I keep trying to balance both life and work, and as I navigate this new role in my life, I keep learning more tricks.
If you have any tricks that work for you, let us know in the comments below!
And now, I’m going to go share this article with my husband, who needs it more than anyone I know.
Related Post: How Moms Stay Sane in the Winter