The greatest balancing act of all time: work and home life

The greatest balancing act of all time: work and home life

To the sour woman who yelled at me this morning because I didn’t pick up after my dog (who had done a wee…), this blog is for you.

Last week I turned off my out-of-office autoresponder and sat down to my first day back at work after 5 months off. Before you tell me I’m a self-indulgent, negroni sippin’, continent skippin’ holiday-taker-er, it was actually 5 months of maternity leave – with very little sleep, but a whole lotta love.

It’s been a beautiful, crazy, life-affirming 5 months. Having a baby is like hosting a never-ending house party. Nobody sleeps, the house is a bombshell and there’s vomit, bottles and dirty dishes everywhere. But, I can hand-on-heart say that it’s been the best five months of my life… Hey, I always did love a good house party.

So here I am, beginning this new chapter of my life feeling not dissimilar to how I felt after a great house party. Foggy and tired, (and a little bit like Rip Van Winkle after he falls asleep for 20 years and has no idea WTF is going on), but this time with my laptop in one hand and a baby in the other. I’ll be tackling work a couple of days a week at a whole new pace.

When our marketing coordinator heard I was set to return to work, she thought it timely for me to write a post on this new routine. To which I said ‘yes, of course’ and sat down with a cup of coffee only to realise I am no authority on the topic of balance. Up until this point, I’ve done a pretty shoddy job of balancing work and life. To me, it’s always been more of a messy, chaotic integration that resembled throwing everything into a blender to which I’d lost the lid.

A so-called work-life balance has always seemed rather elusive to me. One thing I do know though, is that there are plenty of people in similar positions to mine, navigating the throes of commitment – whether that be to your job, your business, your family, your passion or your next door neighbours dog whom you walk once a month, or, all of the above. We’re all just figuring it out, one day at a time.

There’s no denying that I’m scared-outta-my-pants-nervous for what lies ahead. I’ve got enough working mummas in my life to know that it’s not going to be easy (to all of you, I salute you). Having kids and a business will be a downright juggle (more on juggling here).

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to visualise what my new normal would look like when I returned to work. Whilst I still don’t have the answers, I do know that I’ll be setting some of the fiercest boundaries of my life, working only on the important things and delegating like a ninja.

It will be a constant work in progress as I slowly but surely work out how I want to run my business, whilst parenting my daughter. At the moment it’s all just a theory I’m wishing, hoping and crossing my fingers I’ll be able to put into practice.

One thing I keep reminding myself of though, is that creating a business is creating your own mini utopia. It’s your game, you set the rules. You can and you should make your business work for you. If you wanna spend every Monday at the beach, you can. If you want to turn the storeroom into a creche, you can. If you want to breastfeed whilst running an all-hands meeting, you can. Just find the right support, systems and solutions to allow that to happen.

As business owners, we need to harness the power of our creations and use it to our advantage to create the life of our dreams. Because really, isn’t that why we got into business in the first place? To create our own mini utopia? Yes, damn right it is.

So before I throw myself head long into the year (and set fire to my neglected inbox), I’m setting some intentions. This is the utopia I’m creating. This is how I want to business.

Go easy on myself. And others.

To the sour people yelling at dog owners – go easy, you never know what that person is going through or how little sleep they’re getting. This year and those following, I’m committing to having more empathy for myself and others. After all, we’re all just doing our best in a world that demands more of us than we can possibly deliver.

Plan ahead.

It wasn’t until I started writing this point that I realised the irony of how well timed my return to work was with my daughter’s 4 month sleep regression (*face palm*). But today I printed out a giant calendar. I no longer have the luxury of flying by the seat of pants and doing whatever the hell I feel like at any given time. I have another human to factor in. So this year, I’m going to plan ahead and work in 3 month schedules. Organisation is key, or so they’ve been telling me for the last 29 years.

Take breaks.

People are constantly busying themselves with…. well, being busy, and I believe it’s a serious plague of the first-world kind. In his book 7 Habits of Successful People, Stephen Covey tells a story about a woodcutter whose saw is getting blunt as he chops the wood. The poor bloke just continues to chop and chop and chop, with a blade that is becoming more and more useless. If the woodcutter were to stop chopping, sharpen his saw, and go back to cutting the tree with a sharper blade, he would actually save time and effort in the long run. I’m going to pencil in some nice long juicy breaks into my calendar tonight, here’s to a sharp blade and a dreamy holiday in Europe.

Have no expectations, or at least real ones.

Of course, in another life, I’d wake at 5am without an alarm clock, sit on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sunrise and meditate, then drink a homemade green smoothie whilst writing in my gratitude journal. I’d dress in my perfectly ironed clothes, and then peacefully levitate into work where my meetings are short, lunch dates are long and inboxes are dealt with.

But in my current reality, I have a 4 month old who uses diapers like Trump does Twitter and a growing business that often screams louder than said 4 month old. I know that most days my ass will be sore from sitting, my back sore from rocking and my hair so oily, it’s on high alert at Greenpeace HQ because I didn’t make it to the shower. Again.

And that’s completely okay.

I’m lowering my expectations and giving myself some grace. That doesn’t mean giving every task or situation less than my best self, but rather, limiting the tasks and situations I apply myself to. I won’t be able to do everything at once like I used to and I might just have to brush up on my ability to say no.

Prioritise self care.

Self care is turning out to be the buzzword of 2019 already, and for good reason. It’s about making time for yourself, which, might I say, is as easy as a quick cucumber face mask when you have all the time in the world. It is downright impossible when you have meetings and deadlines up to your cucumber craving eyeballs. It’s hard to prioritise self care when you’re just barely surviving. But like the air hostesses keep banging on about – you can’t get oxygen to your little one if you’re passed out already.

The fact is, sometimes getting shit done looks like spending a week mapping out a new customer journey, finishing off a client project, or crunching the dreaded numbers. But I’m here to tell you that getting shit done can also look like booking that appointment, taking that holiday, or making time to pop your feet into lavender scented socks fresh from the dryer. What? You don’t do that?

I’m telling you loud and clear that as a business owner, your business depends on your health, happiness and productivity.

Commit to taking one small step each day.

How do you climb a mountain? By taking a bunch of small steps. Each day, no matter how hard it might feel, or how tired I may be, I’m committing to taking one small step. Just some form of action, movement or forward momentum, with patience, grace and kindness. I’ll be taking things easy, tuning in and spending time on the things that matter most.

Here’s to 2019. A whole new adventure.

Comments

  1. What a beautiful, heart-felt yet action orientated account of the sheer terror that it is to be a new mum returning to work (my boys are now 8 and 10 but it still feels like yesterday). Thanks Tess, and best of luck in every one of your small steps. Bec x

  2. Belinda says:

    What a wonderful article – my son’s 10 months old and I feel like I’m constantly battling the work/family balance as I also run my own business. Do I want to go back to work? Do I want to become a stay at home mum? I want both?! Phew. Thank you for the tips x

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