Balancing work and motherhood used to be my goal. I searched for that magic number of hours, the flexible work arrangements and the energy to do it all. I never found them. Whether you work simply to pay the bills or because of the passion within you for a particular career, I’m guessing you have experienced this too. Sometimes it can feel like I am dropping the ball in all areas or one is receiving the greater portion of my energy.
Honestly, I have given up on balancing work and motherhood. Balance implies an equal divide of time, energy and resources. Instead, I choose to be fully present wherever I am at that moment. At least, I aim for that. When I have time with my daughter, I want her to know that I am engaged with her and interested in what she has to say. I want to include her in the day to day tasks that I still need to do, where possible. When I am working, I want to focus and bring quality into what is in front of me.
Ways to make this possible
Let’s get practical. We can have lofty ideals of what we want our working and mothering life to look like. It takes intentional choices and work to make that happen.
Release yourself from unrealistic standards
Recognise the comparison trap that we so easily fall into and choose to step away from it. Decide with your family what is truly important for you. Are there particular events that are more meaningful for your child than others? How often will you aim to clean the floors and who will do it? Do you really need to provide homemade goods for that morning tea or will store bought do just as well? The standards and priorities will look different for each one of us. Give yourself permission to let go of the rest.
Create rhythms for yourself and your family
I have found rhythm and routine are key. This allows me to create space in my week for rest, family time, getting housework done and meeting deadlines. The concept of time blocking helps me to be focused and prioritise. I know what I am focusing on for that particular time- whether it’s a specific kind of work task or play time with my daughter. Some seasons will require more time given to work projects. Adjustments can be made for those times with the usual rhythm ready to return when possible.
Do the next right thing
I first really resonated with this mantra while listening to a podcast called ‘The Next Right Thing’ by Emily P. Freeman (who also released a book by the same name.) This simple phrase helps me when I am caught in the mental whirlwind of all the demands on my time. What is the next right thing for me to do in this moment? It might be laying aside that work task and playing Lego for 15 minutes to fill my daughter’s emotional tank. It might be ignoring my emails for a 30 minute block to finish writing a blog post. I could even decide that it is to put everything down and go for a walk to give my mind whitespace to think.
Our individual-focused society can end up instilling this idea that we must be independent and not need anyone. I don’t believe that is how humanity is designed to live. We do not need to do it all on our own. Ensure everyone in your household is contributing to the upkeep of the home. Consider outsourcing some tasks, such as hiring a cleaner, using click and collect shopping services or a meal kit subscription. Organise a baby-sitting swap with a friend to get some focused time if you work from home or to get some errands done. Develop connections with friends who understand you and will listen and offer wisdom when you need an outside perspective.
Remember your why
Hold on to what drives what you do. The love for your children. Providing for their needs. Passion for the work you do. For me, I feel more of a whole person when I can engage my mind in the challenges of work and pursue the passion that is in my heart. When I feel more whole, I can be a better mother and wife. I can contribute financially to the household. I can model for my daughter what it looks like to be an engaged mother and wife while still being true to who I am and the additional purposes I feel drawn towards.
It’s the strangest thing. I have chosen not to focus on balancing work and motherhood but on being present and living out these tips and yet it ends up feeling more balanced in the end anyway. It is never perfect and I go off course at times. I frequently need to reassess what is working well and what isn’t. Each day is a fresh opportunity. This is the journey I choose to take as a working mother.
This post originally appeared on the MOPS Australia blog: https://mops.org.au/archives/13568
Audio version available through your favourite podcast app on ‘Inspiritment from Jo Koepke‘