Some days, it may seem like you have it all together. You're excelling in your job and your kids are happy and well adjusted. And then, there are days when you miss a deadline (or four) and forget that your kids had a dentist appointment. Sigh. By its very nature, work life balance is just that, a balancing act. Here's how to find a perfectly imperfect balance that fits your family -- most of the time.
Look at the bigger picture. If you're feeling off-kilter, ask yourself why. Is it because you're working on a big presentation at work that's requiring more of your time? Or is it that you've taken on too much? Find out what's causing you to feel unbalanced, and work to solve it. Maybe you need to band with coworkers on your project instead of doing it all yourself. Or perhaps hiring a cleaning lady will help alleviate the stress of trying -- and failing -- to have a clean home.
Learn to say no. Sure, it's so much easier to say yes when asked if you want to volunteer your time at your child's Field Day, but if that means you're going to have to work into the wee hours of the morning to complete a project at work instead, it might not be worth it. Listen to your inner voice when you're approached to do something -- if it's telling you no, there's a reason. Saying yes out of guilt or obligation will cause you to feel overwhelmed, underappreciated and angry. So choose projects that are meaningful to you -- and say yes to those only.
Assess your financial needs. When you first started working, you needed to be a dual-income family. Now that you've refinanced your home, you might not be as cash-strapped as before. Schedule a time to talk with your partner about your finances and what you both really need to earn in order to live comfortably. You might be surprised to discover that working part-time or even freelance would be a better fit for you -- and your family. That way you'll still be earning extra income but have more time to spend with your kiddos.
Speak with your boss. If you start to cry when your boss adds an extra project to your plate, it's time to ask for a lifeline. Set up a meeting with your boss to discuss work options that could help alleviate some of the stress. Perhaps arranging a one or two day a week work from home option might be just what you need in order to regain some composure -- and some work life balance.
Ditch the guilt. You're a mom, so naturally you're designed to feel guilty about, well, everything. But guilt gets you nowhere fast, so it's time to forego the guilt in favor of truly enjoying time with your kids, even if it's just minutes a day. No mom ever feels like she spends enough time with her kids, when studies show that today's moms spend more time with their kids than their stay-at-home parents did. So instead of feeling guilty that you had to stay late at the office, kiss your kids goodnight and promise that you'll try to get home earlier tomorrow to spend extra time with them.
Turn off when you're with the kids. Working moms know they should be present with their kids when they're home. But the lure of new messages or seeing how many people have "liked" their new profile pic on Facebook can be way too tempting. If you're speaking with your child as you flip through your phone, you need to stop. Now. Giving your child your undivided attention will not only help you stay present, but it will make her feel good to know that Mommy is really listening.
Decompress during your commute. Some people like to plow through the rest of their workload when they're on their way back home. Others simply like to snooze. Find what works best for you in order to make the mental transition so when you arrive home, you're no longer in work mode -- or stressed.
Take a break when you get home. When you walk through the door after a grueling workday, you're greeted with hungry kids clamoring for attention, kisses -- and mac 'n cheese. Even if you're tempted to start boiling the macaroni as you break up your twins' argument over who can talk about their day first (while you're still dressed in your work clothes), don't. After you get home, say hi to your family, give quick kisses -- and then disappear for fifteen minutes. Take the time to shower, change your clothes, hit Facebook or whatever you need to do to make the transition to being home. This much-needed break will help you to truly enjoy your family without feeling frustrated, or worse, resentful.
Do what you love. Let's face it; not everyone loves his or her job. And while you might not be a particular fan of yours, it's still a paycheck...for now. But that shouldn't stop you from pursuing your passions, whether it's fly-fishing or living in Paris for a year and working as a sous chef. Discover what you would really like to do, and then start taking the steps to make it happen. Even if it starts off as a hobby, over time it could become the next phase in your career.
Scale down your schedule. Between your kids' ballet recitals and basketball games, your workload, and taking the dog to the vet to be dewormed, your schedule may best be described as chaotic. Remember though that being the PTO president won't win you any awards -- but being kind to your kid sure does. So take a good, long look at everything that demands your attention to see where you can cut out an activity or two. That way, you'll feel like you have some control -- and balance -- over your time, your schedule, and your life. After all, a happy, balanced mom helps create a happy, balanced family.
Jennifer Parris is the Career Writer for FlexJobs, an award-winning service that helps job-seekers find professional opportunities that offer work flexibility, such as telecommuting, freelance, part-time or alternative schedules. To learn more about Jennifer, visit FlexJobs.com or tweet @flexjobs.
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