(Second of two parts) I’ve worked full-time and part-time and been a full-time stay-at-home mother. I’ve worked 100% in the office, solely from a home office and a hybrid of both. I’ve been the employee, the employer and the freelance contractor. Spoiler alert: It’s all hard.
Boundaries should be a thing
Many years ago, I worked at an ad agency. The hours were long, the pace was intense and there was an unspoken but very clearly defined rule that any inference that your life did not 100% revolve around your work was not acceptable. There were snide remarks, particularly (and sadly), from women about other women when family interferences of any sort crept in. Fortunately, as a society, we have evolved a bit since then. As telecommuting and working remotely have become more prevalent, it has also become more common to see visible signs of your role at work and your role at home intersecting with one another. Some customers may be understanding; others are not.
Life is easier, in my experience, when you can somewhat segment home life and work life, whether physically (store vs. home) or hourly (I am available these hours and days). Here’s the tricky part: It’s often much easier to say no to your spouse/partner, your kids and your personal attempts for self-care than it is to say no to a client or supervisor. Getting swept up in the path of least resistance can negatively impact the health of those familial relationships—and these are people (yourself included) who are definitely worth investing in.
Sure, there’s never enough time in the day, and you wish you could clone yourself. That’s a given. But being purposeful in scheduling your time can give you a sense of control. It can remind you that you have the power to choose your own priorities and path.
Here’s an example. Growing my business was important to me. Spending time with my children was also important to me. Something I did with my children that worked well (among the 3,000 things I tried that did NOT work well), was “Fun Day Fridays.” I would do my best to clear my Friday afternoons in the summertime and during school vacations. Fun Day Fridays helped me feel less guilt when I had to say no to various activities Monday through Thursday, and that simple act of carving out a block of time just for my kids seemed to help them know that spending time with them was important to me—and, ultimately, it created a reservoir of sweet memories that have blessed our relationships. The return on that simple investment of time has been huge. Perhaps you can’t carve out a weekly summer afternoon, but deliberately penciling in time (whenever it may be) with family and diligently keeping those appointments will have a huge payoff.
The myth of balance
We all strive for the magical balance between home and family and self-care and work and community service and everything else. I’m not convinced that true balance is feasible or realistic. There are times that things will be dramatically skewed—starting a new business or just having given birth are two examples that come to mind—but you get points for effort here. Taking time out regularly to prioritize and plan—rather than just getting swept up in the tumbling chaos of life—can help you stay mindful and present. Balance is not required to feel at peace.
You’re doing better than you think—truly
One of the hardest things about trying to juggle all of the demands of life is that there are scores of spectators on the sidelines throwing shade and critiquing us on our juggling techniques, the balls we’re dropped and so much more. It’s painful to get punched over something you are trying so hard to do well. I wish that we as a society, and particularly we as women, could be better at recognizing that everyone’s juggling act is unique and worth celebrating. We are hard on ourselves and we are hard on each other. Most of the time, we’re doing much better than we think we are. You may feel like a hot mess but that heat is simply the steam powering you up and over the mountains of life—and I celebrate your journey.
Chris Ogden is co-owner and communications specialist at QFloors, a user-friendly flooring software designed to streamline operations for small, mid-size and large carpet and flooring stores.