Overwhelmed. Underappreciated. Exhausted. Overcommitted. Chicken-with-her-head-cut-off. Busy. Stressed. Is this how you feel? Mama, you need to find work-life balance.
Do you ever think there’s too much to do and not enough time? Like… All the time? Me too. We are Mamas, and that’s what we signed up for.
Have you ever sat down and listed all of the identities you hold? I’m a wife, stepmom, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, blogger, business partner, aunt, volunteer, advocate, and investor (just to start). As women and mothers, we try to be all things to all people. We perform all tasks with gusto and bravado.
But eventually, we end up exhausted and discouraged. If you don’t find time to recharge, whatever that means to you, then you’ll never be able to balance for an extended period of time. We can’t juggle everything forever, Mamas.
Work-life balance is not a destination.
I’ve struggled and failed to find balance in my life over and over. Debra Sandler, Chief Health and Wellbeing Officer at Mars, Inc, led a presentation that I had the honor of watching last year. She said something that will stick with me forever: “Balance is not a destination. It’s a journey.” You don’t reach balance and stay there. Something will happen–life will happen.
You need to find what normal looks like to you. Find your schedule, your balance. Don’t allow one role to dominate your life. There are certain seasons where some identities will need to take a leading role, but generally speaking, we only find balance when we don’t have overwhelming leading roles. For example, right now, I need to prioritize wedding planning. I am writing this post 2 months before it will go live, but it will launch on my wedding day (yay!). I’ve had to refocus my attention to allow wedding planning to be a leading role for a little while.
On a normal day, I’m a boot camp beast at 5am, supermom getting everyone up and ready before school and work, colleague and devoted corporate employee for 8 hours, present and responsible mom picking Krista up from school and helping with homework, the wife that cooks dinner, for a while I’m a blogger, and finally, I’m a Netflix enthusiast after my little’s bedtime.
Normal doesn’t mean boring. It doesn’t mean that you’re not busy. Normal just means that you’ve found a way to balance all of life’s identities, duties, and roles. Work-life balance today could look different than balance tomorrow, or even a month from now. You can get into a routine, but prepare to re-balance when necessary. Remember, it’s a journey, not a destination.
It’s okay to say no.
It is not only understandable, but it is encouraged that you evaluate your limits and learn to say “no.” Two letters but so difficult for us, right? I repeat: we want to be everything to everyone. Do you not consider it a failure if you turn down an assignment? Well, stop it. It’s okay to say no.
If you want to achieve a work-life balance, then it is imperative that you prioritize what is important to you. If you’re at your limit and a role is presented to you that doesn’t get you excited, fill you with joy or passion, then turn it down. And if you have reached your max and you know that something else would have to give in order for you to take on another role, then you better love every minute that you spend on this new assignment. It needs to excite you from your head to your toes and fill you with a desire for success.
This is what I mean:
If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no.
So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn’t-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes?
No thank you. I am unable to commit to that this year. Thank you so much for asking, but any new yes I give right now means a no to my family and sanity. I am so flattered you asked and count on my prayers, but I am at my maximum bandwidth right now. I appreciate your work so much, but I’ve already committed my time and energy this year. I’ve loved being a part of this, but I am no longer able to continue. We are aggressively focused on x, y, and z this year, so as a family we’ve agreed on no new commitments. This is what I can give but won’t be able to do more right now.
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong…the hell yeses? ALL IN, BABY.
No woman is an island.
How does she do it? She asks for help! All the time.
There are days that my stepdaughter K literally wouldn’t eat breakfast, wouldn’t have a ride home from school, or wouldn’t complete her homework for the day, if I hadn’t asked for help. Know your limits, and request assistance when you need to.
I have the most incredible life partner. When I tell him I’m overwhelmed and it’s beginning to feel like too much, he asks what he can take off my plate. He offers to prep lunches, makes dinner, takes over homework duty – whatever it is that he can do to help me. He can’t write blog posts or go to boot camp for me, but he can help with daily duties.
I have the most incredible blogging partner. We can discuss when we’re starting to feel like we’re losing our balance and get each other back on track. As I mentioned, I’m prepping for a 2-week wedding and honeymoon vacation right now, so Amanda has offered to single-handedly run the blog while I’m gone. Balance doesn’t work unless you have a core to lean on in times of need.
It’s all about give and take.
In order for me to constantly find my new work-life balance and new normal, I have to give and take. What does that mean? Some weeks I work out consistently, and others I sleep more. It’s not possible for me to be everything to everyone all the time. I’m just one person, and so are you.
We talked about roles and how sometimes it’s necessary to let one role lead for a time. It’s completely accurate. When there’s a huge project going on at work or your blog is launching a new product, it’s necessary to prioritize your career woman role. When you’re preparing for a new baby or grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s more appropriate to prioritize family time than your job or the gym.
As long as you’re surveying your responsibilities, you’ll be able to prioritize accordingly and rebalance. Allow a little give and take so you can keep balance without overwhelming yourself and those around you.
Don’t forget to make time for yourself.
The only way to recharge before you jump right back into a chaotic life and schedule is by allowing for breaks and time for just yourself. For me, that’s vacation. I enjoy visiting new places and take pleasure in seeing new scenery. The beach is my happy place and always brings me peace and solace.
For you, it might mean a massage or pedicure, a trip to your mom’s house to catch-up, indulging in a celebrity gossip magazine, or even a quiet walk around the neighborhood. Whatever your respite, make time for it! Don’t forget how important it is to make time for you.
We do so much for others as Mamas. It’s perfectly okay to also take some time for ourselves to reset, recharge, and re-energize!
Find the perfect planner to keep organized.
Finally, my most obvious recommendation is to find the best planner you can. I couldn’t love the Busy Mama Planner any more. It gives me space for my to-do lists, time slots for daily activities, a section for my top 3 daily goals, and even a place to include my daily gratitude.
I track my commitments, my husband’s commitments, and our daughter’s commitments. I track volunteer activities, work events, and wedding dates. Don’t forget birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days!
Honestly, I know it sounds so cheesy, but I feel completely lost without my daily planner. I forget where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing if I don’t have it all housed in a central location.
Kory Kogon, Leena Rinne, and Adam Merrill have an awesome section on keeping your schedule and tasks organized in The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity. This book honestly changed my life so much that I advocated to my company that we bring Leena in to speak to our employees about leading more productive, efficient lives. I don’t live to work; I work to live. I’m a huge proponent of organization, efficiency, and working smarter not harder.
You Can Do It
We put so much pressure on ourselves to stretch ourselves as thin as possible and accomplish as much as we possibly can.
Real talk for a minute? The first time someone said, “I honestly have no idea how you do it,” I thought it was a compliment. Seriously. I thought I must have been doing something right if others were impressed with how much I accomplished. But the truth is that if we can maintain balance, no one would even notice how much we do. We’d make it look easy!
So my challenge for you is to implement the tips presented in this post to make obtaining and maintaining work-life balance look easy. Remember that it’s a journey, say “no” sometimes, ask for help, give and take, reserve some “me” time, and get organized!
You can do it, Mama. I’m so excited for you and your new normal!
P.S. And remember, whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or underappreciated, remember it’s okay to take up space.
P.S.S. If you need help organizing your space, check out this Home Organization Binder (pdf) created for mom’s just like you!