Hi. My name is Claire. I’m a mum. And I sometimes wish it ended there, at that full-stop. Mum, full-stop.
But it doesn’t. Because I’m also a wife, a homemaker, a writer, a blogger, a comms specialist here at Emily’s Voice. Oh, and I like to cook sourdough bread, play around with watercolour painting, do Parkrun on Saturday mornings and make myself available to my friends when they need a natter. Or when I do.
You get the picture. Life. Is. Busy.
And I swear mothers of my grandmother’s vintage never had to navigate responsibilities of this magnitude! Nope. They didn’t. But then, they had other stuff to deal with, like not being given the same opportunities in the career space.
Before I start off on some tangent, I promised to give you some tools to achieve that elusive work-life balance. Let’s be clear: I’m not there yet. I still fret that my kids aren’t getting enough of my eye contact (and that I use the television as babysitter waaay too much). But, with a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, and a working life that has woven in and out and over and under all that entails, I feel I’ve learnt a thing or two. In fact, I’m going to say something bolder than that. In the past year I have found some definite equilibrium in my mumsy-worksy-homey life. And here are some things that have helped:
1. Be a Nazi with your time, ladies.
When you’re working, work your butt off. When you’re not working, DON’T WORK. It really is that simple. Turn notifications off your work email account/s (I have four…). Kindly and graciously let your employer know the importance of your time outside of work. When they respect this, they will only contact you when it’s an emergency – because they do happen – and then you won’t mind a bit.
This delineation of time is so incredibly hard. But once you master it, you will experience such freedom.
Often, the problem with us mums dipping our toe back into the work waters is that we’re so used to doing things whole hog. All or nothing. But things have changed. You have little ones and they require your time and heart and headspace. Work is wonderful and fulfilling in all different ways, but it’s no longer the be-all. And besides, you will be absolutely amazed at how much you achieve these days. Now that you’ve learnt how to change a nappy while on the phone to Centrelink while disciplining the other child and stirring a pot of soup, all at once. Gosh, it’s nothing to be managing a few clients’ requests.
2. Be fun.
It’s really fun being a mum. I just have to remind myself of it sometimes and allow the fun to seep in. So let’s say it again with more gusto this time: IT’S REALLY FUN BEING A MUM! Sometimes all the pressures of work deadlines and housework and birthday party plans build a hard shell around me so I stop interacting deeply. When my little ones tell me things I’ll “hmmm” and “yes sweetie” while simultaneously chopping veg and trying to figure out who’s going to get Master Seven to his swimming lessons tomorrow. And we miss things. We miss the delight and laughter that these amazing human beings bring to our lives. And then that missing-things turns to bad feelings of guilt and worry. Let’s not do that. Let’s have fun with them instead: go jump on the trampoline (I can still do jimmy flips!), tickle them, play games and puzzles with them. Listen to them. Giggle at their pronunciation and perspective. Cherish them.
3. Be a list-writer.
I’ve found this one to help immensely with the being fun point. When the head is heaped full of things to remember, one cannot simply evacuate the grey matter. What to do? Write a list of course! Lots of wonderful lists. It’s the most practical thing in the world and it truly works. At the end of a work day, when you haven’t completed everything: write a list. In the morning when you have a home day and a zillion things to do: write a list. I’ve found that, if my to-dos are on paper (or on some kind of fancy list app), they make room in my head so I can be present with my family.
4. Be balanced all-round.
The work-life balance slogan is a tad deceptive. I mean, there’s so many things wrapped up in that one word, “life”. It should probably look more like this: work-rest-fitness-housework-romance-family-nutrition-spirituality-recreation balance. Plus all the other things I’ve missed. Bit of a mouthful hey! What I’m saying is that we need to be mindful of maintaining balance across the board. Lately, the best thing for me has been jogging. I’m out there in the fresh air, by myself, pretending to be fit (I’m getting there!), setting PBs all over the place. I feel better about myself, my fitness, my body – and therefore I’m more pleasant to be around at home. It’s the same with my prayer life, my creative life, my relationships, my home. A little bit of self care, which looks different for all of us, does amazing things for the equilibrium of our life.
5. Be gentle on yourself.
A wise woman said this to me when I had just given birth to my first baby. Another said it to me when I lost our second baby to miscarriage. And I’ve since spoken the same words to many friends temporarily on their knees. Motherhood is gloriously unpredictable. We can’t predict the next kick in the guts, the next bout of family gastro, the next time you’re asked to speak with your child’s teacher. As mothers, we must be flexible and gentle with the way we handle each new day’s challenges. It’s like we have this little spring of joy, love and peace bubbling inside of us and, when things don’t go as planned, we can drink deeply of it so that our wellbeing doesn’t take a tumble. And those precious people in our care can likewise drink of the same beautiful nourishment. Be gentle so it doesn’t dry up.
There are so many more things you can do to manage balance as a mum. We all operate differently. I think the important thing is that we don’t miss the wonder of this season of our lives. Once it slips away, there’s no grasping it back. So here’s to experiencing the fulness of being a mother and balancing that graciously with the responsibilities of work and career.