Ah, the quest for the ever-elusive balance. Moms all over the world are constantly in search for ways to attain balance in their life, and I am no different. I recently had a session on Instagram live with a friend, Amaka Benson, and we shared what balance means for both of us, as well as tips and strategies for attaining balance in our respective lives. As promised, here is a blog post detailing how I balance the demands of motherhood with my career as a solo law practitioner, YouTube content creator and CEO/founder of Moming247.
First of all, it is imperative to understand that balance is relative and everyone’s journey is different.
The concept of balance is a very individualized one, and can mean different things for different people. For example, balance may mean more time with friends for Jessica, a stay-at-home mom in Toronto with twin boys, while balance may mean a reduction from a 50-hour work week to 35-hour work week for Tinsley, a mom of 3 daughters in New Jersey. You have to figure out what is important to you and what balance may mean to you. Most working mothers seek to achieve one of the 2 types of balance: seasonal work-life balance, and day-to-day work-life balance.
Seasonal work-life balance: The type of balance demands that a change is made to your life over a season – a period of years – to accommodate the demands of motherhood. In this category you find the women who decide to quit the workforce all together, while having kids, with the intention of returning in half a decade or so later, usually after the children are in elementary school, or the women who switch employment from CEO track to part-time lateral positions so they have more free time with their children. Implicit in his type of balance is the knowledge that the change, however long-term appearing, is only temporary – for a “season” in that mother’s life. This type of balance requires acceptance that your career may be sacrificed in the interim, as well as the fact that you may be subject to a significant reduction in cash-low, and demands peace with that knowledge.
Day-to-Day Work-life balance: This type of balance demands that you juggle the daily pulls and pushes of career and motherhood simultaneously. Day-to-Day work-life balance mandates that you perform at optimal/peak levels for both facets in your life, on a sliding scale, on a daily basis. Many working moms who were forced to become “full-time stay at home working moms” as a result of the pandemic fall in this category. Having to operate at 100% speed for both professions every day. I fall into this category, and dare I say, it is exhausting beyond measure. Acceptance that you may feel exhausted everyday while your child is a toddler, and you may also feel the constant pressure to “perform” at work to show your commitment to work is likewise, key.
Below are a few tips I use to attain a level of sanity and balance
Harness the benefits of planning and scheduling: The secret for work-life balance is planning and scheduling these two paradigms of your life so they don’t overlap in ways that may be detrimental to either aspects. Plan and scheduling everything as much as possible helps streamline your days and reduces extreme fatigue, chronic exhaustion and motherhood burn out. Here are a few ways you use planning and scheduling to help attain a more balanced home:
Plan work calls/zoom calls/facetime calls when your children are sleeping/ napping. If you haven’t sleep trained your baby, this may be difficult as the baby’s sleep may be unpredictable.
Meal prep for the family and the children on certain days, preferably mid-week and/or weekends.
Have meal rosters on rotation to eliminate the mental burden of planning meals, and also to help streamline your grocery store runs.
Have set days for certain tasks so they don’t overlap and you don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, I have certain days where I meal prep, and other days where I do the laundry predominantly. When my daughter was younger, I used to puree exclusively on Tuesday and Saturdays, and do laundry on Monday and Fridays. It helped ease the flow of my days because I know what is expected of certain days and I could also plan my work commitments on “lighter days”
Use virtual assistants/scheduling apps: Artificial intelligence is your friend, mamas! Tap into the power of these apps, to make your life much easier. For example, google mail enables you draft an email and schedule a time to send it out. Drafting emails and placing them on scheduled sent/delivery times when you’re with your children so it appears as though you’re working when you’re actually feeding your baby or changing diapers. I’m a huge fan of this – I draft emails at 1am in the morning and I have them scheduled to be sent at different intervals during the morning so that by the time I’m free at the baby’s nap time at noon, and I check my emails, I'll have conversations that need to be responded to and things that need to be addressed. It also gives the illusion of presence, and in this instance, perception is reality my friends! :)
Wake up earlier – I know this is hard, but you need to tear yourself away from those endless early morning snuggles. There is no way you can seek to maximize your time as a mother while also working if you have the habit of engaging in long hours of slumber. Find the perfect number of hours of sleep you need per night to function optimally (for me its 5) then plan accordingly. For me 5 -6 hours uninterrupted is all I need. For others, it may be 7 or 8 hours. Find what works for you and get an early start to the day, which may mean you'll need to go to bed earlier and forfeit your late night Netflix binge sessions (I know, its hard!). You'll eventually find that you don't have to rush as much throughout the day, and you may be lucky enough to sneak in a nap at some point because you've done all (well, some of) the things.
Block out days for/less no work and days for less time with family: This is a tough one because the days bleed into each other and our roles as workers and mothers mesh into one another. However, it is key that there are days where you do as minimal work as possible because your family needs you – e.g. if my daughter has a doctor’s appointment, I’m blocking out the whole day – no calls, no meeting, and I may go as far as setting up and out of office reply for that day. Then the next day, I can catch up on all the work. In the same token, there are days where I’ll have to sacrifice time with my family in order to meet a work deadline or to conduct a deposition and will need to have somewhat of a limited time with my family to do so.
Create High impact workdays and low impact workdays – For me my work week is typically Tuesday through Saturday. It doesn’t mean I don’t work on Mondays…but after 20 years in corporate America dealing with the Monday dread, the last thing I wanted as an entrepreneur mom was to carry on that dread into my life. So I intentionally make my Mondays as light as possible so I can do things like go on a long walk with my daughter, go to the park or even go shopping on those days because: 1) there are years where that was all I wanted to do and I prayed for the ability to do that; and, 2) it takes the pressure away from a Monday. You’ll find that Mondays are a lot less stressful when you don’t have 3 calls scheduled for every hour, on the hour, before noon. If I do take calls on Monday or schedule a meeting on a Monday, I make sure it’s done later the day and that it is an “easy” project that won’t take much time and energy, As soon as that is done, I’m ready to continue spending time with my family and fueled for the craziness that is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Delegate as much as possible – at home and at work. Take advantage of any/all help you have so you can carve out precious time for yourself and family. If this is a reality for you – where you have help at home and at work, then be sure to optimize them for everything. Use your village, sis! Have friends and relatives help pick up your laundry, or grab groceries, so you can spend time to read a book with your children. Have visitors help with the dishes while you do some bonding activity with the baby like feed the baby or change the diaper. Remember the goal here is not for you to have time for yourself right now – rather it is for you to create extra pockets of time to spend with your loved ones.
Boundaries – it is important for us to set those boundaries and honor them. The more behavior you allow to infringe on your work time, the more difficult it will be to push back from those boundaries.
Work smarter, not harder: – In my line of work, we do a lot of writing back and forth written communications, I’ve since set up a few templates that help my days go by faster – all I need to do is spend 5 minutes personalizing the template and I’m good to go. That way I can literally correspond with client while I’m breastfeeding. Use templates, use automated services and automated assistants on google as much and as often as possible. Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Copy and paste, check for errors, send and keep moving. Remember a work paycheck is nice but a loving, present, well-watered and dependable mother is priceless.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Let's continue the conversation. Do you struggle with balance? What strategies and tips do you employ?
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