Finding the perfect work-life balance is a topic that has long been discussed among those in the business world, but more recently the topic of working from home as a mom has come to the forefront. Perhaps the pandemic has shed some light on what's been glaringly obvious to moms all along, or maybe it's due to the increased opportunities for women to launch and sustain their own businesses at home thanks to new technologies. Whatever the cause, more and more women are finding themselves in the overwhelming position of desperately needing to find some resemblance of a healthy balance while mothering and working from home. The good news is we are in this together, and we've got some practical and easy-to-apply ideas that will help make this dilemma a lot less intimidating.
Expectations Are Everything
We have expectations we place on ourselves, and expectations placed on us from others. In the case of the mom working from home, she has the expectations of her employer or staff, her clients and colleagues, her significant other and children, any other family member, friends, and maybe the most daunting of all, the expectations she places on herself. With all these expectations swimming around us, we've got to be intentional. Take a step back and evaluate which of these expectations are realistic and reasonable, and which ones are not worth your energy. It helps to make a list of all those demands, both spoken and unspoken. It's worth noting here that unspoken expectations often weigh more heavily on us than anything else, so instead of ignoring them, confront them.
It helps to do this in categories. Write down the demands you feel in each area: work, home, social, self. Then evaluate which ones are absolute, and which ones are unreasonable. Are there any that can be delegated somewhere else? Can some just be laid down altogether? You may be surprised what you come up with when you see it on paper.
Once you've hammered out what expectations are reasonable and responsible, communicate to your clients and colleagues accordingly. Knowing where you stand can help you to make promises that you can consistently deliver on, and prevent frustration from others' when their expectations aren't met.
Boundaries Are Your Friend
Thanks to some great literature and emerging research by Frontiers in Psychology, the concept of boundaries is no longer obscure. We know that boundaries are a healthy part of a thriving life, but remember that the only one who can set appropriate boundaries in your life is you. What does that look like when so many areas of your life seem to overlap? Sometimes it looks like time blocking schedules and sticking to routines that work. When you schedule conference calls, allow yourself to solely focus on that scheduled call for the allotted time.
One of the greatest fears of work from home moms, or any working moms for that matter, is not being fully present with their family, or not being fully present with their professional goals. Trying to create some time blocks that allow pure focus on these separate and distinct areas can be life-changing. Do you have an hour in the morning before the kids are up? What can you do during that time to really focus on work goals? Is there a time during the day when you can put away the laptop and phone and just play with the kids? Plan it. Put some red tape around that time and make it a boundary that protects that time.
Setting boundaries is a powerful step, but just as important is to communicate those boundaries in a clear way. If you have decided that you won't work after 6, your colleagues and clients won't know that unless you tell them. If you tell them, but you answer your phone at all hours anyway, they won't respect your boundaries. Be intentional and stick to it. It may feel like a challenge upfront, but it's worth it for the results.
Check-in With Yourself, and Go Easy
Working mothers know that finding a work-life balance is a lot of, well, work. It takes its toll at times, and we all need time to recharge. Give yourself a break, literally. First off, don't underestimate the importance of a scheduled lunch break. You need time to refuel and refocus, so promising yourself lunch breaks is an essential step. And when you can, take some time to yourself and do something that makes you feel fulfilled and briefly step away from your professional life. Sometimes giving yourself a little pat on the back can go a long way. Use the paid family leave or personal time you're given to focus on self-care, family time, or what you feel you need. Whether it's a walk, a hobby, a hot bath, or a piece of chocolate, do not neglect this person who does so much for so many! Additionally, don't be afraid to rely on family members to help when you need it. As a working mother, you're holding two very important roles. It's okay to ask for help when you need it. Remind yourself not to feel guilty in the process. Feeling guilty is counterproductive for everyone involved and eats up your precious time to focus on what is important. You can be a wonderful mom AND have a successful career, prioritizing what needs the most attention at any given time.
Guard Your Focus
It's easy to look around and see all the things that didn't get done. We tend to notice the balls that fall more than the ones we continue to juggle. When you slip up and fail to meet a goal or expectation, make a quick note of it. You only need to notice it long enough to formulate a plan to avoid it in the future. If you forgot to follow up on a client call, what system can you put in place to prevent that? Maybe you dedicate a notepad to revolving items that you revisit near the end of your day. Great! Make a plan, but don't stay focused on what you didn't get right.
Instead, take time to focus on what went well. What can you celebrate? Where are you killing it? Where are you feeling fulfilled? Savor the moments of a snuggle with a little one, or the pleasant feedback of a happy client. These are a big part of why you do what you do, so take some time to enjoy them. You deserve it!
At the end of the day, all we can do is our best. Every day brings new opportunities to become a little more efficient, a tad more organized, and to keep our eyes on ways we shine a little light in our world.
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