8 Tips for Finding Work and Life Balance
Finding an Even Ground
This article originally appeared on LearnVest.com.
The list of things we love about being a mom is multiple pages long:
- Goodnight kisses
- The first time our kids read a book to us
- Violin concerts
- Dance recitals
We could go on and on.
One of the tougher things about being Mom, though, is creating boundaries. It’s not as if we can turn off our mom lives the second we’re with our friends, at the office, or reading our fresh copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
In essence, being a mom is like having a job where you are always on-call.
As any mom knows, our first responsibility will always be to our families, but it’s important to create boundaries between our own needs, their needs and our work lives. Keeping the spheres separate helps us be the the very best mom, friend and employee we can be—rather than only being partially present for each role.
Use our tips to help you focus more clearly on the task at hand, whether that’s finishing up your PowerPoint for work—or putting the finishing touches on that purple peacock costume you’re making for your kid’s upcoming school performance.
For the Working Mom
Have Separate Work and Personal Cell Phones
Refusing to answer personal calls during work time (barring emergencies, of course) helps you get your work done sooner–and it emphasizes to your co-workers that you’re committed to your work rather than letting the outside world distract you. On the home front, that means that your colleague can’t, in fact, call you at home while you’re at the dinner table with the family—or at least, with a separate phone, you can choose not to answer the call.
Get it done: If your company doesn’t provide you with a separate work phone, try Google Voice. The free technology allows you to create a different phone number to give to your work colleagues as your “cell number”; the number will forward to your cell phone as usual, but you can program your phone to ring differently when you get a call from that line, and turn “off” that number, sending everyone to voicemail (via ‘do-not-disturb’ enabling) after business hours.
Get ‘Smart’ About Your Email System
Similar to the phone system above, this will help you do work on work time, then fully check out when you’re at home. Plus, watching a personal email from your hubby pop into your work inbox in the middle of a big meeting can be a bit distracting, so this is simply a wise practice in general. It also means your colleagues don’t have the right to bother you at your personal email address when they need something while you’re at home.
Get it done: For starters, try your best not to send personal emails from your work email–or vice versa. If you’re at a job where you can’t open your personal mail in a browser, at least create a “smart” mail box system within your work email, suggests Stephanie Vozza, author of The Five-Minute Mom’s Club: 105 Tips to Make a Mom’s Life Easier. ”Filter emails based on keywords or the ‘from,’” she said. “That way, you can compile your personal emails that you get from school or daycare into a separate, individual folder.” Of course, many moms have jobs where it’s necessary to check email “after hours.” If this is the case, designate a half hour each night as “back-to-work” time. Make it after dinner and bedtime for the kids, and try to stick to only a half hour as much as possible.
Skip the Dish
It’s only natural that you’ll feel like gossiping about your workday to your family every now and then, whether that means catching your husband up on water cooler gossip or complaining about the crazy thing your boss did today…again. Talking about it too much, though, can detract from the time you do have with your family.
Get it done: Cap total updates to a certain amount of time per day—20 minutes for you and 20 minutes for your partner should work fine, and hold off on bringing it up until after the kids are asleep. If something at work has you super riled up, put yourself in a time out. Take ten minutes to walk around the block and clear your head before going home. Try meditating, combined with low-intensity walking, which has been proven to calm nerves and improve bad moods.
For the Work-From-Home Mom
Create a Separate Work Area
If possible, make sure your work space is as far removed as possible from your living space, to help you resist the urge to squeeze work into personal time.
Get it done: Even if you can’t devote an entire room to a working office, try keeping work space as separate as possible. For example, if your work space is in your kitchen, don’t throw your household bills onto your work desk. Instead, designate two different specific areas for “family business” and “work business.” If you’re using a common area as a home office during the day, Vozza recommends putting your work away when it’s “after hours” (try getting a few storage bins that you can tuck into a closet or under a bed when you’re not working). Out of sight is, as they say, out of mind.
Set Your Business Hours
You can’t expect your 4-year-old (or even your teenager, really) to just “know” that when you’re in your office, you’re pretty much off-limits. It’s up to you to set that precedent.
Get it done: Hang an “open” and “closed” sign on your office door, or near your work space if you don’t have a separate office, to clearly let your family know when you are working and when you’re off duty. If you’d rather not spend money on a sign, try making one yourself. (Otherwise, this one is super cute!)
Take a Break
Take at least a half hour during the day to get some fresh air or just enjoy a change of scenery from your workspace. Remember to leave the cell phone behind. Treat your breaks as you would if you were in a regular office–so instead of helping kids with homework at the kitchen table, go outside for a quick coffee or a brisk walk.
Get it done: Do what you would if this were a traditional office. If you don’t want to leave to buy lunch, you can walk the dog instead, or make a lunch and bring it with you to the park.
For the Stay-at-Home Mom
Become a Fan of ‘No’
To help with this, think of your kid as a client … not your boss. You might find it hard to delineate between your personal time and your “mom” time. Set limits to make it easier. “Moms don’t like to put themselves first,” explains Vozza. “But we’re better moms when we take care of ourselves.” It’s important to carve out time for yourself and make it happen, whether that means going out to lunch with friends, escaping to the gym or going out solo for a walk.
Get it done: Have a chat to let your kids know that even though you don’t have a desk job, you still have a lot going on. Set specific hours for when you will drive your kids places, when breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served and when play times are. Do your best to keep these hours as if this were a regular job (with the understanding that of course, things come up throughout the day). “Give your kids specific instructions on what you’ll be doing and how long it will take,” advises Vozza. “And remind them that when you’re done with whatever it is you have to do, you’re back to being Mom.”
Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, it’s just as important to have a set bedtime (or, for teens, at least a time when they’re in their room reading or relaxing before bed) so you’ll have your own undisturbed time every night. Setting a regular sleep schedule isn’t just important for your sanity, though, it’s good for their health, too. According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours out of every 24 hours, with a gradual reduction to 12 to 14 hours for toddlers ages 1 to 3; 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers 3 to 5; and 10 to 11 hours for schoolchildren ages 5 to 10.
Get it done: We’ve talked about the different ways to get a good night’s sleep before, which includes having your kid take a bath or read before bed, and shutting off the TV and computer up to an hour before bed.