This post is adapted from an article that I wrote for the BonBon Rose Girls last year.
December is always a month of reflection for me. I think back on the last year and try to focus on what's coming or what could come and lately the thought that most consumes me is how I will ever find my balance. Actually, it's whether I will ever find my balance. I know I’m not the first woman who has ever had to deal with this and it's refreshing and comforting to know that I'm not alone in trying to figure out what works and trying to strike the ever-elusive balance.
So many women and men (those with children and those without) I know personally are searching for the balance. Everyone’s experience and circumstances are different and although I wish there was some way around it, the truth is that there is no magic formula that works for everyone. I am primarily a stay-at-home mom but I work from home on my photography business. Lucia is in school three mornings a week and I always fill my time while she's there. I have a nanny (who is amazing!) who comes to help me two days a week and on those days I work from home, go out to meet with clients, handle all of my business errands, blog, take care of personal things like doctor appointments and such, go food shopping, run other household errands, work out and generally do all of the things that are easier to do when I don’t have my baby with me.
In the two and a half years since she was born I started to see some patterns and I noticed all of the things that I have to work on in order to make it better for me, my family and my business. I was able to narrow it down to five basic points. While often times following my own advice has been a tall order, like everything else, it’s a work in progress.
1. Define what balance means to you
Balance to me means doing my best in any given situation. I’m usually wishing that I had more hours in the day so I could get everything done but I have to do what I can with the 24 that I have. I used to spend a lot of time feeling guilty and I still do but it doesn’t help me at all to be a better parent or a better business person. I set my own barometer for success and along the way I’ve had to accept that sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything (keeping up with this blog, for example). For me this has meant taking on fewer work projects and being realistic about what I can deliver. Ultimately, if I have to choose between my work and my family, my family always wins.
2. Get and stay organized
I’m pretty diligent about making my schedule. Before I had my baby I could make it up as I went along, but now I have to do it on a weekly or daily basis and (try my HARDEST) to stick to it. I love making lists. I make a long, long list at the beginning of the week and I break it down into categories. I need to have that order and I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I take my red pen and check the completed items off. It’s a little thing and it goes a long way for me.
The planning is tougher when you have a kid since things don’t often (rarely) go as planned, but if I have my schedule set out for the days that I have my babysitter it's infinitely easier. Also, I no longer have an office at home–I have a small workspace in my bedroom or at my kitchen table so being neat and organized is key. I can’t let the pile get too high or my head feels crowded (like right now where I have a stack of personal bills, presents that need wrapping, a stack of business items I have to file and a bunch of packages that need to go out that are holiday orders from my Etsy shop). I have a “work closet” where I keep all of my gear, test prints, samples, files including contracts and invoices and a lot of other random stuff and supplies that I need. Also I keep only one calendar and I cannot live without it. If I'm honest, deep down I wish I had my own space to work and be inspired and more often than not I feel crowded. In 2013 I hope to find something for myself where I can go for a physical escape. I've been wanting to start painting again (oh yeah, I was a painter for years forever ago) and I'm hoping it's in the cards for me again soon.
3. Change is necessary and normal
My daughter is a routine-lover just like her mom and she needs it and thrives on it as much as I do. While her routine has been set for over a year now, everything changes…especially when you have a kid. Obviously if my baby is sick one day or my sitter cancels I have to switch things up but at least if I’m organized and stay focused, I can do my best to make it all work. Adapting to change is hard for me but I've gotten better at anticipating it and making it work.
Staying focused is very difficult for me. This part goes hand-in-hand with being organized. Whenever I feel the procrastination coming on or I sense myself getting sidetracked (Twitter and Facebook -- not to mention Pinterest -- are amazing but it’s so easy to fall into the time suck) I try to remind myself that I only have 45 minutes until the baby wakes up or the babysitter has to leave early or whatever it is that will get me back to what I need to get done. I always check back on my list to see what’s next and what’s left.
5. Take time for yourself
I never made time for myself when my baby was first born. I was all over the map trying to do everything and be everything. But you know what? I need to spend time on my marriage, I need to work out for my body and for my mind, I need to go out and take photos for my personal projects and I need to see my extended family and friends. These are the other things that are important to me and that help me grow as a mom, wife and person. The baby goes to bed every night by 7:30 and then we have the entire evening to ourselves. While I do end up working late at night and my husband works very long hours at his job, we make it a point to have dinner together at least twice a week and when we don’t have dinner together we still find time to sit down and talk about our day and all those million other things. This time for myself really helps me to stay focused.
I always joke that I’m a professional juggler and it’s so true! As parents we’re always trying to figure out how to find time for everything. I have the utmost respect for all mothers – those who work at home, those who work outside of their home and those who are stay-at-home moms. It is a full-time job on top of whatever else it is that you do. Along the way I’ve learned that everyone, myself included, has to do what they feel comfortable with and what is best for them and for their family. I find comfort and satisfaction knowing that I’m doing the best I can and that I’m accomplishing so much in all the different areas of my life. Maybe someone else thinks they can do it better than I can and maybe that’s true but in the long run, I’m the only one who knows what works for me.
What do you think? How do you try to strike the balance? Do you think it’s possible?