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The trap of work life balance

Work life balance is a phrase that I hear a lot, especially as a working mom. When I hear it, I always imagine a scale with a stack of things on one side (work) and another stack of things on the other side (home).  Each thing is a different shape, size and weight. Each side of the scale has to be meticulously maintained but is hardly ever actually balanced. Balance seems pretty unattainable because you don’t know what the next ‘thing’ you have to add to your scale will be. Work life balance can be a pretty difficult goal to accomplish.

Let’s talk about time well spent

As a working mom, the way I spend my time is not about keeping two aspects of my life perfectly in balance.  It is about knowing how to invest my time and energy in the different parts of my life that are important to me.  Instead of imagining a scale, imagine that every day you get a purse full of coins. You can choose to put it in the family piggy bank or the career piggy bank or the self care piggy bank or the friends piggy bank or any other piggy bank you may have.  You need to figure out what the right mix of coins is for each piggy bank. To me, the family piggy bank is the most important. The career piggy bank is also very important. Some weeks, I put a little less in the family piggy bank than I would like, other weeks I put a little less in the career piggy bank but overall, I put the right amount in each.

Tips for working moms

You can be a working mom and be happy with your personal life and your work life.  As a working mom who has had two pregnancies in Corporate America and who has returned twice to full time jobs in Corporate America, I have learned some great lessons.  

  1. Great childcare is key to your professional success.

    We talked about it in our prior post.  You will not be happy as a mom if your child is not happy. You will not be able to focus on work if you are worried about your child.  

  2. Make a plan for how you will invest your time and energy and make it a habit.

    Do you need to be able to do drop offs everyday? What are the school events you must attend? Do you need a certain minimum number of hours every day with your child? Is there a recurring meeting at work that always requires extra preparation? Figure out the key moments or activities that are important to you and build a routine around them. You will not always get to participate in everything exactly how you want to. However, if you make it a routine the odds that you will be able to do it most of the time are in your favor.

  3. Do less so you can do more.

    Stop doing the extra things that you do not really need to do. Don’t plan a super fancy birthday party for your child if you know the planning will be stressful and your child really just wants to go on a train ride with his parents and eat a big cake. Avoid wasting time at work on small assignments that do not actually need to get done and probably won’t get noticed.  

  4. Invest in self-care.

    You may think the family and career piggy banks are the only ones that need coins but the self-care piggy bank does too.  Maybe you invested a lot here before you had children and don’t feel like you have enough coins to keep investing in it. It can be very hard for a working mom to invest in taking care of herself but it is very important. Small actions can add up to a big investment.  Focus on the things you can do with consistency.

  • Hydrate: Make sure you are drinking enough water.  Ditch the soda and the juice (ok as a treat but not as hydration). Don’t use coffee as a crutch
  • Eat healthy: Eat nutrient dense foods. You don’t need to cook regularly to do this. Just focus on eating whole foods and be thoughtful about what you order or buy prepackaged. Cut the sugar and simple carbs out (this can make your fatigue so much worse). Eat regular meals. Have healthy snacks around for food cravings.  Talk to one of the nutritionists on AfterThird for advice.
  • Prioritize your sleep. Baby is asleep and you want to sleep but you have laundry to fold….go to sleep.  Lay the laundry out flat somewhere so it doesn’t wrinkle (if that bothers you) and go to sleep. Have social plans but are incredibly tired? Cancel. Good friends and fellow moms will understand. 
  • Schedule in relaxation: Work with your partner (or support network) to schedule a regular time to enjoy some of your favorite activities. If this is too much, build ten minutes into your day for a breathing exercise, mini restorative yoga practice, or a brisk walk. Self-care matters. You can find health coaches, fitness experts and yoga experts on AfterThird for help getting started.

About the author. Meet Karolina.

I am a working mom and the founder of AfterThird. I am the daughter of a working mom, who is also the daughter of a working mom.  My grandmother worked at a time when few married women who could be full time homemakers chose to work. She was also a full time homemaker.  I founded AfterThird because I found myself completely unprepared when I became a parent. The transition was very tough for me and I want other new parents to have better access to good information and good support.