It is amazing how work, life, balance and parenting can even fit in the one sentence. It’s like trying to fit a Great Dane through a doggy door meant for a Chihuahua. Every parent’s journey is different but from my experience many who are working struggle to get some good balance in their lives.
I remember thinking it was hard at times when l only had myself to look after and was working! What was l thinking? If l knew then what l know now, I’d be like ‘how easy is this?’ Looking back l remember days thinking ‘I’m going home from work tonight but I’m too tired to go out with my friends for the third night this week’. Oh no poor me! l didn’t know what work and tiredness was until l became a parent and then a working parent. As for balancing kids, work and life, it depends on how you look at that. Your life changes dramatically and you are not the sole focus anymore.
Becoming a parent can be the most exciting, beautiful and rewarding time of your life. On the other side is the anxiety, sleep deprivation and fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, some people have to go back to work soon after having a baby. I can’t comprehend that myself. Some mothers who have started back early have an increased risk of developing post-natal depression which we have to be mindful about and be supportive.
Returning early is usually out of necessity but sometimes the other partner will stay home with the baby and the mother goes back to work. This would also be difficult being away from your baby when you are just getting to know each other. These are very tough times indeed.
With my first child l returned to casual work one to two days a week when he was 8 months. I was still breastfeeding so l had to express while l was at work. I was casually working in midwifery so l was in the right place and didn’t even have to bring my pump so l was lucky. Many mothers aren’t quite so well supported which makes it difficult.
I returned to two days part-time as a child and family health nurse and one day casual as a midwife teaching preparation for parenthood classes when he was 11 months. I really found this really hard going as my son had to go into child care due to the fact that my husband and l had no family nearby. I felt ok about it because l knew it’s what l had to do and l had no choice. Ok there were moments of mummy guilt, but l was doing the best l could.
After my second son was born, l returned to casual midwifery work again at 8 months and then two days part-time when he was 11 months. This was even more difficult with two children. Three months later l was then working three days a week and some casual midwifery shifts. It just kept getting easier and easier….. said no mother ever. Life was busier than ever and l felt l was sinking deeper and deeper into the volcanic lava.
Then l thought how can l get some balance in my life. Well it’s damn hard and l still struggle. My husband is away from home eleven hours a day, five days a week. This puts a lot of pressure on us as parents and in our relationships. What can we do to help ease this pressure? I have learnt a lot from my education, working with mothers and my own personal experience. I hope these insights help you out to try and find the right work, life, balance for you and your family.
Tips to attain Work Life Balance
- Be gentle on yourself. No one is superwoman although we would like to be. Cut yourself some slack. Think back to basics. Are you all fed, do you have shelter, love and warmth? There are families who aren’t working that do not have these basic fundamentals in life which can be destructive for children who are learning to be in our world. Some may not get a lot of food to eat, have regular shelter or are able to be warm and loved. This breaks my heart. I practice gratitude each day to remind myself that I’m doing pretty well.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Talk openly to people that you care for you. Talk about how you are feeling and coping with life. If you feel that you are not coping well, speak up. It will benefit everyone in the long run.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People who care for you will help out if you need it. You just have to take that first step. Counselling or talking to your GP can also be worthwhile especially if you feel you are not coping well.
- Be honest with your children. They know when something is going on. They pick up on everything!
- Nurture your relationships. It’s tough on your closest relationships. Be kind, be honest and they will maintain themselves.
- Take your leave. We all need a break. If we don’t we are no good to anyone and worst of all to our children. They see it, hear it, breathe it and they know if you are cranky a lot.
- Ask your employer for flexible work arrangements. This can dramatically reduce your stress and give you some balance to suit you and your family. For some workplaces this is not always possible, but it never hurts to ask.
- Don’t feel guilty if your child is sick and you have to stay home to look after them. Your family comes first. This becomes tricky when you have no leave left to take like me. Make sure you have savings (at least 3 months of your income) saved if possible for rainy days.
- Try and have a break and some ‘me’ time when your partner is home. If you do not have one, maybe a close family member or friend. Take in turns of looking after your friend’s kids so you both can have a break at some stage. It will benefit everyone and is a valuable time for strengthening relationships.
- Have some realistic goals and set a time limit. Working towards achievable goals makes you determined and gives you the energy to live through each day with hope of achieving them. And when you do it feels like such a fantastic achievement.
- Pursue a hobby that you are interested in that will fit in with your lifestyle at this point in your life. I love photography but with two young kids and work, l do not get time to spend out and about flashing sunsets. Lucky for me, l have found a love of writing that l am so passionate about. I can do this at night when the kids are in bed. Being able to do this has given me a new perspective on life which l feel gives me more balance in life. I feel more ‘fulfilled’ and ‘happy’ which resonates with my family.
Some further resources