As parents we are constantly admonished through a variety of channels to maintain Work Life Balance. For me this always conjures up a picture of a scale that’s supposed to be in equilibrium. Is this at all realistic? I personally don’t think so, and this is why.
To live productively, we need to integrate all aspects of who we are. We are after all Holistic beings. Work cannot be on one side of the scale and the rest of our lives on the other side.
The concept of Work Life Balance came about after World War 2 when corporate life started to develop. In “those days” people believed that everything had to be compartmentalized. With time and loads of research we now know that unless you look at life as a whole, wheels will start coming off.
By buying in to the “Work Life Balance” myth we put so much pressure on ourselves that all we really do effectively is become master jugglers in our lives. After all, if you look at what popular media says you need to fit in, you really have no choice.
Life is about priorities and these change as we grow and experience life. When you are in your 20’s and starting out, your priorities are far different that when you are in your 40’s with kids.
What is very important is to understand what your priorities are. Yes, that project does have a deadline, however without sleep & junk food, you are going to become more & more ineffective. It’s about focusing on what is important and putting everything else in its place.
An analogy that I really love is this: Look at each aspect of your life being a ball. The most important ones are made of glass, the not so important ones of rubber and those that don’t really matter could be rocks.
Now when attempting to be a master juggler, you are going to try and keep all these balls in the air. Eventually one is going to drop. What if it’s a glass ball? The balls of rock will be fine, the balls of rubber will bounce back up, and glass balls will shatter!
It’s all about where you put your focus. For example, once I have picked my daughter up from school, she is my focus (glass ball), when she is at school my work is my focus (glass ball). If I still had to worry about her while at school I’d get nothing done. I trust the teachers and if something happens, they’ll phone me. Once hubby is home, the family unit is my focus (glass ball). The rest i.e. extended family (rubber ball), friends (rubber ball) and anything else (rocks) have to fit in around that. Is it difficult, absolutely, because as we know, everyone wants a piece of the pie that is you. Is it worth the effort to make the changes, without a daught.
My most treasured tool is my diary. Each term I allocate school items. Each daily item is written in a different colour, making it easier to see where one tasks starts and another ends. Where possible I allocate like tasks together on the same day. And very importantly, I mark off each completed task. This helps you answer that pesky “So what did you do today?” question.
By following a routine of planning you decrease that feeling of being out of control, of trying to do too many things at the same time. You keep what is important on track, delegating or deleting those proverbial rocks.
Now some might respond to this by saying that they are brilliant at multi-tasking. Well, here’s the thing. Multi-tasking isn’t as effective as it was once made out to be. Your focus is scattered & time is wasted every time you pick up on a task. Eventually all this busyness catches up and those delicate glass balls start dropping.
So take the time to know what is important to you, remember that looking after yourself is important too. You can’t be any good to anyone else if your energy & focus is depleted. Does planning always work 100% of the time, no. Learn to be flexible.
If after all this, you still feel harassed; take a look at your value structure. What you are trying to achieve may not be inline with your values and this rift is what causes the anxiety. For more on values, see the article written for Parenting Hub