When I signed up a few weeks ago to write about work-life balance, I was enjoying life as a stay-at-home momma, just a couple weeks away from returning to work from my maternity leave. I had my little girl Hannah just over four months ago, and she is the center of my world.
Before life as a new mom, I thought I had this thing called work-life balance pretty well figured out. I enjoy my job as membership manager at Blank Park Zoo, meeting new people at networking and professional development events, and spending time with my friends and family.
Transitioning back to work the past couple weeks has been a harder process than I anticipated (I may have had a minor meltdown on day four), but it has also awakened in me a new sense of self as a parent. I have come to realize that my time is a gift, and how I spend it isn’t just about me anymore.
Even if you don’t have children, you know that your time is valuable, and how you spend it can easily overwhelm you. No matter where you are in your life or career, finding balance between work, school, activities, family and friends is important.
I’d like to tell you that there are three simple things you can do to achieve this magical thing called perfect balance, but I’d be lying. What I can tell you is that there are three things that I find helpful in feeling less stressed, more balanced and happy with where I spend my time. These three truths are what I need to remind myself of as I experience life as a working mom.
1. Know your limits. Different things stress out different people – we each have our own threshold of what we can handle. It helps to know what you can handle before you hit your breaking point. Are you okay with being busy every night of the week? Do you thrive on multi-tasking and having a full schedule? Do you need a lot of time by yourself to re-energize? How much time do you want to spend at work, home or with family and friends? Granted, some of these things are out of your control, but by having an idea at what point you have reached your limit, you will be able to recognize when your plate is too full.
2. It’s okay to say no. As a person who enjoys trying new things, and as a people pleaser, it’s pretty easy for me to say yes when someone asks me for something. I like expanding my skills, and it’s a good learning opportunity to try something new. However, it’s pretty easy to let my plate get too full when I say yes to too many things. Enter stress and feeling overwhelmed.
When you’ve reached this point, it’s time to learn how to say no. Get in the habit of saying no to the things you know that you don’t have time for or aren’t passionate about. Don’t sit on the board of an organization you don’t believe in, or don’t sign up for a volunteer committee if you just don’t have the time to commit. Be honest and let the person know that you’d love to say yes, but you just don’t have the time. Say no without guilt, and know that in doing so you are saying yes to something else.
3. Say yes to what is most important. In a word, prioritize. Decide what – and who – is most important to you and invest your time there. Life Coach Tabby Hinderaker had a great guest post on the blog recently about time management, which included an exercise that helps you see where your time goes and learning how to prioritize it.
Outside of the work day, where do you most enjoy spending your time? What goals are you hoping to achieve? Seek the answers to these questions, and in doing so you’ll have a better idea of where to invest your time and what is okay to say no to.
For me, what matters most right now is spending time with my family. This may mean I spend less time at YP events, volunteering or doing other things I enjoy, but it also means I get to experience the amazing journey of being a parent. Each day is a joy as I experience it through my daughter’s eyes. I plan to ease my way back into doing more in the community, but for now as a new mom, I am enjoying this chapter in my life.
What are you most passionate about? How do you find balance?