Before you have kids, you might not even be aware of the concept of having work-life balance. You probably work your typical 40 hours a week and save your sleeping in, errands, housework and fun for the weekend. This is all you know. After you have kids you are introduced to this concept of work-life balance.
Whenever I think of this concept I picture a scale where the object on one side weighs the same as the object on the other side and the scales are even. Balance after all is what you’re after, but balancing work and life (including all the things required to take care of those little people that depend on you) never looks like that. I think that’s why so many parents find themselves frazzled and stressed out.
I’m sure, like me, you know the feeling of there never being enough time in the day and the feeling doesn’t go away no matter your work status. I’ve worked full-time with my kids running a daycare, part-time, been strictly a SAHM, and a WAHM. Every single situation requires lots of juggling.
When I worked part-time there were days I sat proofing copy on the computer while my baby nursed. Luckily I had a very understanding company at the time. There were days I ran a daycare that I still felt that my own children didn’t get the best I had to offer them. I felt like the kids whose parents paid me to watch them got more of my time and attention. It didn’t help that we had three infants in our care and my kids were four and two and didn’t require non-stop feedings and diaper changes.
As is typical for most SAHMs, forgoing paid employment doesn’t mean you don’t work. I did a lot of volunteering through my church in addition to carrying the primary responsibility for the household chores and childcare.
Right now working from home means praying for a long uninterrupted nap from my toddler and is dependent upon my other kids being at camp or school. It means fitting my work into whatever time squeezes around and through the daily webbing of my life. It also means folding laundry, running the dishwasher or vacuuming the house are also fighting for that same uninterrupted time, which is never long enough.
There are no perfect situations, only the situation that suits you best in each season of your life. There is no equal balance between work and family time. The scale is always tipping to one side or the other and the most important thing to remember is that you can’t look at any single day to see how your life really measures up on the scale. You have to look at much larger chunks of time – months or years to see the scale average out.
Maybe you’re going through a season where you’re trying to start a business, work towards a promotion, or seeking a new job and the scale seems to be perpetually tipped in that direction. Maybe you’re a SAHM, but you want to return to the workforce in the future and your scale is always tipped toward family to the point where you wonder if they could survive without your full attention.
When you look at your life one day at a time, the scale will never show a balance. Someone or something will demand more of your attention and that’s okay. Because the truth is that work-life balance (as in both work and family get equal attention at all times) doesn’t exist.
So instead of looking for balance, ask yourself the most powerful question that I ever asked myself – “What’s it going to take to make me happy right now?” I’ve asked myself this question right after my first child was born, after I found out my company was going through a merger, when my daycare business was failing and when I was a full-time SAHM in search of some way to earn additional income. The answer was different each time.
The answer may not always be easy or feasible right away. Maybe that looks like part-time work, full-time work from home, or staying home. Finding “balance” is just a way of saying you feel happy with the priorities in your life at this moment in time.
The scale is always tipping, sometimes multiple times a day and it can leave you feeling frustrated, angry or sad. But the scale is not how we should measure our lives. We may not always have the time to do everything we want to do. But as long as you’re actively doing your best to provide for your kids in whatever capacity that looks like for you, then it doesn’t matter what the scale says.
Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.