The Great Balancing Act

As a mom of 3 boys, I am constantly trying to find balance. Balance between work and family life, balance between family time and “me time,” balance between what I want and what I can afford…You name it! If there is a choice to be made, I’m going to analyze the situation tirelessly until I make the right choice. I am, after all, a Libra!

The hardest thing to balance for me is work and family. Since I became a mother, I have had just about every work schedule you can imagine. I’ve been a nanny where I could take my son to work with me. I’ve been a  stay-at-home mom, I have worked nights and weekends, and I have worked full-time, Monday through Friday.  I currently work 2 days a week in an office outside the home, and I work the rest of the week, on a part-time basis, as a Realtor out of my home office. I also write a few blogs, but only one that gets regular attention (this one!).  I routinely feel pulled in 10 different directions at any one time.  What I have come to realize though is that the old adage is true: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This family works best when I’m feeling good about my work/family balance, and I feel fulfilled in other areas of my life. Finding time for my family is never an issue, since they come first. It’s the rest of the things that pull at us that need balancing!

So I thought that I would share with you a few of the things that make my life feel more balanced. I haven’t spent a lot of time or money to tip the scales in the right direction, but I have had to try a lot of different things before figuring out what works for me. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still a work in progress. My life is by no means perfect!

If you work from home at least part of the time, pay for at least one day of day care so you can have one day all to yourself. My oldest boys are in school, but my 3 year old has 1.5 years to go before he enters kindergarten. He goes to a licensed in-home daycare 2 days a week so I can go to my office job. I pay for him to go a third day, just so I can go to a Weight Watchers meeting sans children, do some house work, catch up on the DVR, and hopefully get some blogging done! If your situation doesn’t allow you the luxury of paying for an extra day, try to swap babysitting with a friend. There are also local babysitting coops if you look for them.

If you can’t work with the kids and the dogs running around, and the TV on, and the phone ringing, and, and, and…Lock yourself in your bedroom or go to a local Wi-Fi hotspot. I am typically too lazy to pack up my laptop to go somewhere else, but when all the noise and the craziness of the house get to me, I lock myself in my bedroom with my laptop. It is generally accepted by my family that I am not to be disturbed, unless it is important. I leave the TV off, and I try not to bring my phone up with me – just to be sure I use my time wisely!

If you have vacation days built up, don’t be afraid to use one as a mental health day! If you’re stressed out, and feel like you have a to-do list a mile long that is not getting done from your desk, take a day off, and tackle those things that must be done during business hours, or while the kids are at school. Or stay home and do absolutely nothing!

If you aren’t happy with your job, find another one! Work stress can be a big factor in how much “quality” time you spend with your family. You can’t just phone in time with your family. You have to be able to let go of your other stresses and obligations to get the most out of your time with them.

If you feel unfulfilled as a stay at home mom, take some classes or get a part time job. This has been my biggest issue. I graduated top of my high school class and immediately went to college. I had big dreams that somehow kept changing, and never got realized. The one thing I followed through with was being a mother and a wife. The problem is that I became a mother and wife before finishing school. I did graduate and I received my degree, but I never started a career before having kids. I’m okay with that choice, and it’s worked out well for my family, but sometimes I miss the world of academia, and being stimulated intellectually. I’ve tried a few different things to make me feel more fulfilled. I’ve worked part time, and full time,  I took some CE courses and I applied for a program at the local community college with the intent of getting into the medical field. That didn’t exactly work out, but I loved the classes that I took. I’m now registered for another class that starts in a few weeks so I can explore a different career path.  Between working part-time, and the intellectual stimulation from college classes, I feel more fulfilled in the areas that were lacking.

If you’re struggling to find some “me” time, schedule it in. This is a big one too! As women we are less likely to take the time for ourselves that we need, for fear that we miss out on something else, or we will make someone else unhappy. If you aren’t good at telling your hubby that you need some time to yourself, join activities that are typically scheduled and recurring. I joined a book club and started going to Zumba. We don’t always talk about the book at book club, but it is one evening a month that I can put on the calendar when I will be unavailable. I also get to dedicate a certain amount of my time for reading the book club book during the month.  As for Zumba, it’s only offered at specific times. I try to pick the times that work around the rest of my family’s schedule, but sometimes it’s not possible and my hubby has to take care of whatever comes up while I’m gone for an hour and a half. I get to exercise, chat with my friends, and have time away. 

If you can’t get out of the house to get some “me” time, find a hobby that you can do at home. For me, it’s baking and sewing. When I’m doing either one of those things, the rest of the family leaves me alone. They know that I’m working on something that makes me happy, and it’s important that they stay out of the way. When I bake, I get to be in the kitchen, close to the rest of the family, but they aren’t allowed in. It’s my own sliver of solitude among the masses! If I really want to be away from it all, I sew in my bedroom.
So to recap: have a job you love (even if that means you stay home), find something that is just for you that you can put on the calendar, stimulate your intellectual side, and take some down time when you need it. Easy peasy, right?!

I’d love to hear how you keep your work/family lives balanced! What tips and tricks do you use to stay sane and energized?

Pamela Stocks
Cul-de-sac Mom
Cary Heise
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