SheBrisbane read a recent article in Women’s Agenda by Nicki Ferguson about the whole work-life balance thing which we think at times is a total myth! This is what she had to say…
While work-life balance may feel impossible for those in traditional workplaces that still don’t fully get flexible work; it isn’t actually as hard as one might think to improve your own wellbeing at work and home – you can even thrive.
Everyone’s work-life balance will look different and will change through various stages in life but there are a few common themes:
1. You feel joyful and healthy the majority of the time.
There’s no getting sick every second month (even when the kids do), there’s no sleeping in (not because you don’t want to but because you’re ready and raring to embrace the day), and there’s very few lows and mood swings (as you don’t get swayed by others actions and emotions).
2. You work productively and feel purpose in all you do
You know instinctively when one thing needs attention over another, when to move on to the next task and how to get the most out of your awesome self so that you can contribute to your team/work/family/you with intention and care that always considers the big picture and impact on others.
3. You have quality time with your children
There’s no guilt when you are not with them because when you are with them you are 100% connecting. Meaning, you really pay attention to all they have to express – what they say, how they are behaving and all their idiosyncrasies. By being fully present with them and taking them in as a complete multi-dimensional being you support them to grow into vibrant young adults… just like you.
So if work-life balance is no myth and the above three points are possible, how do working parents that have mastered it, actually achieve it?
1. They optimise flex
The ‘in’ word in the working parent galaxy is ‘flexibility’. If they can get it, most working parents would jump at it, if not they would ask for it. Working parents that work flex know their worth and know that they deliver just as well (if not better) when they can work the times and days that fit with their caring responsibilities. This makes them more eager and committed to perform at their optimum because they appreciate the latitude and the trust their employer gives them.
2. They seek support when they need it
There’s a saying that goes ‘shy bears get no sweets, greedy bears get fat’. Working parents who have mastered work-life balance don’t shy away from asking for help but neither do they take advantage of the supports they do have. They understand that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and don’t attach themselves to being the ‘everything parent’ that society asks of them. Their accepting of support isn’t restricted to childcare. They utilise their networks – school parents, family supports, mums groups and online forums etc. They also don’t hold back getting what they need to run the household – be that a cleaner or ordering groceries – understanding time spent on particular tasks can be a missed opportunity for other jobs that may bring more value to their work or family unit.
3. They connect to purpose
From each little person’s shoelace they tie to every meeting they attend these parents understand the purpose of why they are doing what they are doing. This brings clarity to tasks and helps focus on what needs to be done right now. If you are lost in your to-do-list in your mind or are feeling emotional about something it’s going to distract you from purpose. Working parents who have mastered balance stay present and take a moment to connect with themselves and their purpose when they feel discombobulated by the various demands pulling for their attention.
4. They drop perfectionism
They may be masters but they are not perfectionists. A true master knows that all mistakes and imperfections are opportunities to learn something new. A parent that tries to get it all right, get it all done and strives to be the best parent or employee ever will ultimately feel disappointed or disheartened is some way. These parents make self-care a priority; not just because they know this will enable them to care for others better but also because they are more productively at work. Why? Because you won’t be wasting precious time analysing the trivial details or trying to please another or stressing about whether their ‘doing’ is correct.
5. They are excellent prioritisers
Working parents who master work-life balance are amazing at prioritising what is most important. Sometimes it will be to leave the meeting early to pick up the kids, other times it will be about staying late to finish an important project asking someone in their network to pick their child up from tennis practice. These parents are excellent at time management and planning and may do things like set aside time with their colleagues or family to plan the week ahead and all the logistics it entails, breaking down tasks and delegating where appropriate.
6. They have banished guilt from their emotional makeup
Yes, shock horror it is possible… and permissible! Guilt is a dirty word. These parents make a choice and bare the consequences; they learn and they let go. They know that by choosing to work (paid or unpaid) they are inspiring their children to be productive in society and active in the community. Yes, we make mistakes as parents but if we are determined to be open to feedback and self-assessment in an honest and understanding way we can only ever continue to grow. Guilt has no place in a working parents life and, though it is a common reality for many, it needn’t be. You have permission to banish it from your vocabulary!
7. They appreciate themselves just because
These working parents really acknowledge the value they bring to their household, to their relationships, to their workplace and to their community. But mostly, they get that it’s not what they do, it’s who they are on the inside that matters. Working parents who have mastered work-life balance don’t measure their self worth by what their kids or manager says to them (especially in the heat of the moment!) or by how much they achieve in any one day. They dedicate – even schedule – time just for them; to care for their health and wellbeing with absolutely no guilt about ‘not-attending-to-other-things’.
A working parent that has mastered the art of work-life balance is someone that gives it a go without any attachment to a picture of what they should or shouldn’t be doing. They embrace each transition in their child’s life and their career even when things feel especially challenging or dismal. This is easier to do because they have set a foundation using the above 7 points to hold them steady when the seas get rough. The balance comes from being consistent in these areas and in having an overall commitment to life. The good news is that increasingly, more of us can make it a reality and that’s a truth (not a myth) to spread.
Nicki is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Parents At Work. She is also a mother of a bright-spark 6 year old and has a passion for writing about how we can support ourselves, our families and others more holistically, breaking down the barriers that get in the way of a balanced work and family life.