Work-Life Balance Hacks
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One of the biggest struggles for working moms is finding a way to “do it all” or to have it all. Motherhood is already fraught with guilt, but when you add a career to the mix, the guilt does not only double. . .it triples.
I found this transition particularly difficult as I had spent so much time out of the career zone. In my sixteen years as a stay at home mom, I had plenty of jobs outside and inside the home, but none were careers. None of those jobs demanded that the lines between home life and work life would be so blurred as a career would.
My career assumes a traditional forty-hour workweek. I also have a monthly evening meeting, various fundraising events that happen within and outside of my “work hours”, occasional travel and various miscellaneous activities. While I may leave my office at 5 PM, my mind is constantly on my job.
Add into the equation the fact that I have six children and a husband who also juggles a busy career with multiple non-traditional commitments.
We are busy.
The first few months of my being back to work, I floundered a bit on the homefront. Some things suffered and I flaked on a lot of outside activities.
But now, almost a full year in, I feel like I am getting a handle on things.
Here are some things we used to make things work for our family:
1. Google Calendar
In reality, I use the entire suite of Google tools. I like having Google Docs to keep items that I am working on in the office but may need to refer to on the road or at home. But the Google Calendar? This, my friends, is a life saver!
My husband and I share Google calendar (though he has confidential calendars for work appointments, as do I). We have a color for family events, a color for each of our respective work events, a color for each of the kids’ schools, a color for Boy Scout activities, and even a separate color for birthdays of family or friends. We can see at a glance where there are schedule conflicts, and we know when we can plan family events. I am a bit scatterbrained, so I like that I can get text or email reminders of events, and I get a daily email for the schedule for the day.
I still like to sit down with my husband once a week to “touch-base” on driving and activity schedules, but he is generally confident that if the event is on the calendar, then we no longer really need to discuss it.
The best part is that it is free and syncs across devices, so I have a copy on my iPad as well as on my work computer.
2. Meal Planning
When I was a stay at home mom, meal planning was a more casual affair. As in, I meal planned if I wanted to write a cool blog post about meal planning. Now that I work outside the home, I share cooking duties. If I want someone else to cook, I need to have the food on hand and a menu planned! I enjoy planning menus, but I don’t have the time to do it in such a leisurely manner anymore. I also don’t have the luxury of preparing complex meals on weeknights anymore.
Now we eat a combination of family favorites; menus culled from the weekly sale papers (ie, we’re eating what is on sale); or menus from eMeals.com. For the most part, the eMeals menus work out the best. They offer variety, and are usually meals that can either be cooked in the slow cooker all day or prepared quickly in the evening. Our family likes the foods offered and having a targeted shopping list saves me a ton of time.
3. Laundry Day.
I am still working on mastering this. I’ve read my fair share of home organization books. They all, without fail, recommend the same thing. . . a single day for doing laundry. And, when I stick to it, it really works. There is something about the feeling of accomplishment when the laundry is really DONE. Not all of my friends agree. We had a great discussion on my facebook page last month about this very subject. (Have you ‘liked” Dakotapam on FaceBook yet? I share lots of great tips, and bog posts from all over the webiverse!)
The fact is, if so many naturally and not so naturally organized people agree on one big laundry day. . .there must be something to it. And who wants to be stuck doing laundry every day anyway? Not me!
4. Make the Most of Lunch Hour
One of the best parts of my job is that I have an hour every day to do as I wish! That is five free hours a week! I try to plan many of my errands for this time, banking, going to the post office and shopping at Target all fit in this time slot. I also try and meet friends for lunch every few weeks. I do miss my mom friends that I used to see so often at play dates. Don’t ignore this time. Sometimes I use it to just read. Sometimes I have to use the hour to go to the dentist, and that is not super great. I’ve also been known to run home and clean up the kitchen if we had a particularly rough start to our morning!
5. Don’t Try to Do it All
You can’t. Really. Nobody can. You will kill yourself working 40+ hours a week, keeping a spotless home with gourmet meals and still be PTA president and soccer coach. Let some things go, others will pick up the slack. We have learned to share duties much better in our home, and we are still learning in that area. For the most part, our house still looks about as good as it did when I was a stay at home mom (sometimes better. . .housekeeping is not my strong suit). The kids are fed, healthy and doing well in school. It turns out, they never really liked me hovering over them anyway, go figure.
Chime in! How have you creatively (or not so creatively) fashioned a balance in your life? I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment!