Over on my Instagram, I get this question a lot:
How do I handle work/life balance?
I have a love-hate relationship with this question. On the one hand, it’s an honest question. I work full-time out of the home and I have a family and other stuffs going on that need my attention. How do I manage this someone might wonder. But on the other hand, I know this whole balance phenomenon is really another way to make women feel badly about themselves because we go straight into the comparison game. Because the truth is, what works for one family and one working mother is different than what works for another family. Balance is a myth, an illusion. Because everyone’s balance scale is made differently. How we divide our hours or household duties or parenting responsibilities is completely unique to each family. So now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you what works for me.
I’m always learning and our situation is always changing and our stage of life is ever-evolving, so this is what works for me right now. (Legal disclaimer - I have no idea what I am talking about. Okay, maybe not a legal disclaimer, just my general motherhood motto, ha! *upside down smiley face emoji*)
Get all our stuff ready the night before.
Heading out the door, I’ve got to grab my lunch, the kids’ lunches, pumping parts, purse filled with my planner and wallet and anything I’ll need, jackets, spare diapers, tuition checks, breakfast, etc. I have found that our mornings run much more smoothly when we have things ready the night before. Emma lays out her clothing. The lunches are packed. Bottles are clean. My outfit and accessories are folded nicely in a little pile. That way, I can wake up early, get ready in the bathroom, then wake the kids and feed them breakfast and head out the door. It’s much easier than wondering WHERE THE DANG SHOE WENT. You know what I mean.
Have a work “uniform”.
I am 29 and have finally established my style uniform. I wear dark slacks, a flowing blouse, and comfortable shoes. My makeup routine has been the same since college too. I sweep on a cat eye and black mascara, brush my eyebrows, and wear my hair in its natural texture. BAM. I don’t try to get creative on work days. I stick to what I’m comfortable in and what I know looks good on me. If I want to experiment, that’s what the weekend is for, I am not trying that new hair style or make up tutorial technique on a work day.
Spend time with the kids whenever possible.
I miss my kids while I’m at work. I LOVE my patients and my job and what I do outside the home, but I do miss my family. So when we are together, I try to make our moments together a possible bonding moment. If I need to cook dinner, I’ll ask Emma to help me stir. If I need to pump, I’ll read a book on the couch with Henry. I try to leave my phone in my bag when I get home so that I can catch up with Paul while we get dinner on the table. Every moment is an opportunity to bond. It’s about quality not quantity.
Sit at the table for meal times.
At minimum, we all sit together for dinner. Sometimes we feed the kids slightly before we eat ourselves, but we all sit together. We pray before our meals, we talk, we laugh, we share our days. I crave this time each day to check in with each person.
Witching hour crazy fest.
Before we need to actually start getting ready for bed and preparing for the next day, we let loose. We have dance parties, we play hide-and-seek, we play soccer without pants on (oh wait, that’s just Henry), we sing, we eat dessert, we go crazy. We get that energy out before bed and I get on the floor and play with the kids. It keeps me sane to allow that time to let loose. Things get messy and toys go everywhere, but as long as we reset the house before bed, I try to embrace the witching hour.
I am not a maid. I am a mom and moms have to delegate. Paul and I have been partners in homemaking since we got married and when we had kids, it was no different. We encouraged cleaning up toys as soon as Emma could sit up. If the kid can walk, he can put his own dirty clothes in the hamper. Chores and keeping our home is everyone’s job and everyone’s responsibility. We also try to make it fun. We blast music while we mop the floors or make it a competition on who can clean up their toys the fastest. Also, everything in our home has its designated place. We don’t just pile our sh** on the floor when we walk in the house. We put the lunch boxes where they go, the shoes come off in the garage, the jackets get hung on their hooks. If you live here, you help out. Period.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media or watching some Friends reruns. But for my sanity, I have to unplug. I work on my planner or I crochet something. We go on family walks or play games together. We designate phone-free times. I head to a coffee shop with a book and unplug. I am grateful that my job doesn’t require being on-call after hours, because I need that time to be disconnected from work or what’s going on in the news.
Lower the bar.
As much as I love a consistent nap time or screen free play. Sometimes, we have to bend the rules. If things get especially busy or hectic, I am more than happy to allow gratuitous screen time. If no one wants to cooperate for sleep, throw ‘em together and see if the snuggling helps. Slap the baby in a baby carrier and make an ice cream sundae. Most of the time, we are eating well-rounded meals, maintaining a bed time, and keeping it together. But sometimes, I have zero interest in cooking and I grab that take out with absolutely no guilt.
I make time to pray. I need my daily rosary to feel sane. I try to make it to my Bible studies. I go on retreats a couple times per year. Mass is non-negotiable for me. We also pray as a family before meals and before bed. Making time to pray is what has kept me sane when things are at their hardest. When in doubt, pray it out.
Did I mention coffee?
Well, there you have it. This is in no way a complete list for my survival as a working mom, but these things come to mind for now. What works for you? What helps you stay sane in your own day-to-day situation?