Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance
I'm kind of a work-a-holic; mainly because I love my career. In 5th grade I had to do a presentation on what I wanted to be when I grew up... and even at that age, I told my teacher I wanted to be an accountant. I went through school, passed the CPA exam and just love learning new things, so I dedicate whatever time I have to towards work. Even the thought of retiring 30-40 years from now makes me slightly weary.
But that all came to a halt when I had Francesco. Even more than being an accountant, I knew I wanted to be a mom. Maternity leave for 3 months was strange to me (I won't lie, I did work a little bit each week), but it was honestly so great to take a backseat and reset my priorities.
I've been back to work for 6 months now. It's been rewarding and challenging at the same time. I'd be lying if I said I don't have mommy guilt. Like most working moms, I get sad when I miss out on little moments with him. But that only reinforces me to set my priorities right and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here are my tips for doing so:
1. Get Organized.
It sounds simple, but having a family calendar and a work calendar helps us plan date nights, meals for the week, social events, time with family/friends, work and babysitting schedules, vacations, and most importantly- down time! I've learned that what works best for us to reset on the weekends is to have one day of absolutely no plans. I also make lists- grocery lists, to do lists, long term goal lists, etc. This helps keep track of the things I need to do immediately, and the things I am saving for a "rainy day". Prioritize and plan for the things you want to do, so that your plate doesn't get overflowed with last minute emergencies that stress you out.
2. Be in the moment.
This is a hard one for me. For years I've been a multi-tasker; doing one thing while thinking about 5 other things at the same time. I know how to be efficient and productive. But that doesn't work when you have a family and a job and you are constantly torn. So I try my best to take one task at a time. If I'm at work, put my phone on do not disturb. If I'm at home with the baby, put my phone in the other room while it's play time. I won't lie, I'm still not the best at this. But I try everyday to get better... and when I do disconnect, I feel so much better!
3. Set boundaries.
My bosses both had stay at home wives. And while I think that is a wonderful privilege, it's not realistic for me. But just because I don't stay home every day does not mean that I don't have boundaries. I have found that working from home every other Friday, works for me. I advocated for a schedule that would work for me and really stick to the no-overtime rule that I set in place. I used to give my job all the hours I had, now I make sure to get in, do my job, and get out. I am not big into eating out, so I have to be really strict and leave at 5-6PM so that I can get home and cook dinner for my husband and I. I also try to not answer emails past 5:00 vs. how I used to answer my messages instantly. Now I wait and have learned to enjoy my time away from the office. In a day an age where technology is ever present, things get considered "urgent" that really can wait until I'm back at my desk the next morning; but it's up to me to set and maintain my boundaries.
4. Stand your ground.
I work in a male dominated industry. This isn't a rant on feminism, but in my particular situation, my bosses don't understand what it's like to be a full time working mom. And this comes from someone who works for the family business. Like anyone else, I fight for what I need and I work hard to prove I deserve what I request (in some cases, I have to work even harder). I try to put myself in their shoes and think of what seems reasonable.
5. Accept help when your cup is full.
We all get to a point where we feel too much pressure. Too many commitments, too much responsibility, too much pushing forward with little down time. It's those moments when I will ask for help. Listen to your body, follow what it needs- go for a run outside, enjoy a cup of coffee alone, take a nap. Whatever it is... just do it. There are times where I have worked so hard, ran myself so thin, and am visibly running out of steam. Same with Frank. I think we both do a good job at giving each other a break when the other needs it. We also have divided up the household "chores" pretty evenly, and we are both hands on with what the baby needs. This helps make sure the responsibilities don't pile up on one more than the other, and it works for us.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff.
At the end of the day, life needs flexibility. There are a lot of mornings where I'm running so late and I somehow need to pack the diaper bag, change the baby, do my makeup and get everything in the car within 15 minutes. I'll somehow get everything done, but then Francesco won't want to go in his car seat. He'll be clinging to me, crying and shouting "maa maa" and I just can't... I take the 2 minutes to hug him and cheer him up and forget about how big of a rush I'm in. I'm definitely working on not being so rushed all the time but in the meantime, I'm making sure that I go with the flow.
Life will always throw new challenges and curveballs at you. It's important to take a look at things every once in a while and make sure you find a balance that works for you. Even when you find something that works, definitely keep checking in and making adjustments if need be.
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