#7: My Tips for Balancing Work and Family
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There are 3 main themes that I can think of during this season of my life that I use for balancing work and family. There are seriously so many out there and things I know I do that I don’t even touch on in the episode, but I wanted to share some insights with you that might get you thinking a little differently in your own life. And because I’m sure many of you have some time savers and hacks that help you find greater satisfaction in your work-life balance, I’m inviting you to share those on our facebook page, CairnYogaWellness and on Instagram and using #HealthHarmonyHappiness. I’d love to hear what tricks you all have to ensure you are feeling your best about spending time with your family while conquering the work world.
Schedules are Crucial
Now I know that seems pretty basic and like a no-brainer, but it’s a good reminder of how important schedules & routines are, not just at work but for your life outside of work. Our bodies thrive on schedules and knowing what to expect, so in our household we try to remain as consistent as possible, especially with kids, so we don’t all lose our minds.
It’s a super big one for our family, and it started when my oldest was a baby. He was a very difficult baby and my sister-in-law sent us a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (affiliate link) by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, and it seriously changed our lives. We started watching our child’s natural sleep signals and determined his bedtime based on those, which ended up being pretty much around the same time every night…and probably MUCH earlier than most people would ever imagine—there were times we would put him down to sleep around 5:30 or 6 PM, and he would sleep 12-13 hours without waking. But if we deviated from that and kept him up, our lives were hell for multiple days following that. So we began to protect the sleep periods of our children and were very careful in determining when we would sacrifice a regular bedtime. Now that obviously gets more challenging with the more kids you have and when there’s just 1 parent doing the bedtime routine, but for the most part we try to stick to the schedules as much as possible. Even when it would be fun to stay out later or skip a nap to do something exciting, we’ve made the conscious decision to put our wants or needs aside much of the time and become a slave to the clock so our kids won’t become overtired and turn into crazy little people and we save our sanity in the days following a late night excursion or missed nap. Our friends don’t always understand this, or I think necessarily remember what it is like to have little ones, but we make it work. And of course there are days & weeks when it’s not ideal, for instance when the kids go out of town and stay at grandparents, my husband and I always enjoy our time together and we enjoy when we go with the kids for overnight stays, but it’s pretty much a guarantee that the sleep schedules are going to be out of whack and we are going to come home with cranky, loopy and out-of-sorts kids for a few days and we definitely pay for it.
As far as our sleep schedules…we are boring. We pretty much go to bed at 9 every night because of our schedules and because our kids wake relatively early. We have 1 kiddo who is nearly always a 6/6:15 riser, and if he goes to bed later, he is only up earlier. But that’s a whole other topic for a show so I won’t bore you with that now. Ideally, I would go to bed at 8 or 8:30 since I get up at 4:00 when I am working, but it’s really hard to give up that time with my husband at night or doing other projects if he is working. So…there’s where I lack discipline. Then I end up having to take a nap during the day, which I don’t prefer, but it is often necessary. Plus, I’m intrinsically a night owl, so have to make myself go to bed at a decent hour so I can get enough sleep.
The next type of scheduling that we implement at home, which I mentioned earlier is routines for our kids—routines are critical for kids (I have researched the heck out of this) and along with our own experience, kids in general flourish on having a routine. It doesn’t mean every minute of every day has to be scheduled because it IS good for all of us to be adaptable and able to go with the flow, but having a general routine that is followed is definitely helpful in our house at keeping both the kids and me from being bonkers. I have been reminded numerous times during my maternity leave how much I personally thrive on having a regular routine. This doesn’t mean that down time and time without routine is not welcomed, it just means that I tend to feel my best when my day follows a little bit of structure, even if it’s as small as actually accomplishing my morning bathroom routine—contacts, face washing, brushing teeth– which doesn’t exactly always happen right away currently…sometimes not even until 10 or 11 AM these days with being awoken by a newborn at random times then tending to everything else that comes up to help get people going or out the door. I am recording this episode when I am on maternity leave, and because there is no regularity in our schedules—which perhaps is somehow a lesson God is teaching me…patience in all aspects & surrender—it has definitely taken a toll on my mental health. Now that Matt is back at work and the kids are back in school this week has been a bit easier, but keeping their morning and evening routines pretty consistent is key for us.
My husband is on mornings 6 out of 7 days a week with the kids when I am working and has that down to a science, from what I gather.
So afternoons I am home and 99% of the time pick up kids from daycare, that way I get to see them and try my best to set this time aside to be as present as I can be with them.
Evenings can be trickier because I occasionally have meetings for various organizations and boards I’m a part of and because my husband is sometimes there and sometimes not with his work schedule, but we try to do the same thing each night—definitely bedtime routine is consistent—Since I’m not around in the mornings I make it a point to try to limit evening activities for myself so that I can see the kids then and be a part of that routine. Which is part of the reason I don’t hold class in the evenings…that’s my time to get to be with my family since I give up mornings.
And the last way I can think of that I use scheduling as way to create work life balance is through my work schedule. When I’m done teaching in the morning & working at the studio during preschool hours, if I’m with my kids, I try to make a conscious effort to not work unless its nap or bedtime or the kids are at school or daycare. I also schedule 2 days a week when I have the kids with me after I’m done with class in the morning and I’m primarily at home to dedicate time to home projects & needs.
I am also a HUGE list maker at both work & home—I keep a list in my planner of what I’d like to get in a week, then prioritize it by day. And of course, depending on the season of life, the number of things I prioritize for the day varies. Right now, it’s sometimes just 1 thing, others it’s 3, and yet others I can blow through 10 things on my list. I also have a wall of giant post-it’s with various categories on them in my office that house smaller post-it’s with individual tasks written on them so I can move them around and prioritize that way for bigger projects I may be working on. And it’s usually those to-do’s that get written into my planner to be divided up by day.
But what about those instances when you have just a short amount of time that could easily be spent scrolling?? Two philosophies I like to remember and implement:
Gretchen Rubin has a 1 minute rule I discovered years ago. If there’s a task that can be done in less than 1 minute, do it—for instance putting a clean shirt away rather than leaving it on the chair…
And recently I’ve taken on a new way to break up projects and look at my day—it’s something I heard from Boss-Moms® founder Dana Malstaff—divide your day or project up into 10 minute jobs. So if you have 10 minutes between when the kids come home and you have to start cooking dinner, what’s something you can get done—fold a load of laundry, respond to email, clean part of the bathroom, etc. This makes projects seem more manageable.
And if something is on your to-do list and it keeps getting moved from 1 day to the next, it’s too big. Break it down into smaller tasks. Perhaps 10-minute or less tasksJ. I’m still working on this one, but it is definitely helpful. It’s also a good one to use when “adult-ing” projects suck you in and the kids start to get really squirrely because they aren’t getting enough attention from you—take 10 minutes to play something with them, then explain that play is their job and that it’s important for them to do & the project you are doing is important for whatever reason—however it is supporting or helping your family—and now you have to get back to doing it for a little bit. Again…something I am working on and certainly have nowhere near perfected.
Knowing your village, tribe or circle & asking for help
Something that comes into play whether you have another adult to share the load with or whether you’re a single parent is the ability to ask for help. Whether it’s from family, friends or outside resources, I know I wouldn’t be able to hold it together if I didn’t have help in some way or another. And for those stay-at-home parents, this can be a really tough one to admit the need for. When one parent’s “job” is to be home with the kids, it can feel like you “should” be able to do it all. But “should-ing” on yourself is never healthy because it places an instant feeling of guilt on yourself and creates a downward spiral that pulls you even farther from being your best self to serve your family. So call it your village, tribe or circle, but whatever you call it, it’s a tool that makes balancing family life and work a little easier.
**Full disclosure: I’m not always very good at asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, but if someone doesn’t want to help or can’t, its best to trust that they will be honest and let you know that. And sometimes I even create my own block because I make up a story in my head about why someone wouldn’t want to or be able to help me, or let’s face it, because of the tone I receive from my husband when I simply address him by name. But let’s be honest, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
My husband and I share responsibilities around the house. It’s not expected that any 1 specific person does all the housework or the laundry or the cleaning or the repairs around the house. When something needs to be done, the dishes for instance, someone just does them. Or if one of us has a strength in a particular area then that person takes on that job. And I know from having my husband live away from home during the week at times in our lives with 1 and 2 kids, it is definitely a lot more helpful to have an extra set of hands to get things done. I am truly amazed by single parents; when you’re on your own, the ability to provide for your family financially is a big enough demand, but then to be able to manage a household and all the responsibilities that come with it by yourself is admirable.
I will say that I am completely guilty of not asking my husband for help when I need it, then feeling resentment towards him because he is doing something more enjoyable and didn’t ask me if I needed help. So it’s a work in progress…
We also definitely enlist help in caring for our kids.
We pay for part time daycare for our kids even though I only teach 5 – 8 AM M-F so that I can work on the administrative side of the business without the distraction of kids. Because let’s face it, as I’ve discovered once again while being on leave, it’s really hard to get anything done when there are 2-3 little humans running around the house. I also totally use this time to get personal errands & some things around the house done, and as much as possible make my trips to the grocery store. Because as my husband REdiscovers every time he forgets this simple fact and takes the kids to the store, it’s just not that easy or enjoyable when there’s more than 1 little with you.
We also have some great friends who give generously of their time to have our kids hang with them when both of my husband and I are working on Saturday mornings or when we need care at other random times. It definitely takes a village…
And as for work, I have recently hired out some of my administrative work
- Because I don’t really enjoy social media taking my time but it’s a necessary thing when you own a business.
- Because I just can’t do it all myself. It’s OK to admit that AND to hire out some of the things you don’t enjoy or that aren’t strengths of yours.
If you don’t like cleaning, and can afford to have someone come clean your house once or twice a month, then why wouldn’t you!
We have a beautiful space for our studio. It’s a big building that still has room for more in it, and we have finished all of it except the garage. After the contractors did the construction work on in the inside, I did all of the painting and decorating and some other minor construction projects but there’s NO WAY I could have done it without the help of some very dear friends who were willing to give their time. I am forever grateful to those who have helped and continue to help make our building what it is.
And finally, I couldn’t have taken leave after my Lulu was born at the beginning of August if it weren’t for some amazing women who are taking my place in the studio right now to ensure class is still running. Honestly when I first found out I was pregnant, I thought I may have to close the studio for a time so I could take leave, but I have some beautiful souls who were willing to put in some extra time to be trained and continue learning through their yoga journey to oversee classes while I am out.
And the thing that has made all of these connections possible and is the only true constant in balancing work and family for me and reminds me that I’m on the right track is my faith.
Belief in Something Higher Than Yourself
This is what ties all of these things together. I make it a priority at the beginning of my day to read devotions, reflect on them and set intentions for the day. When I’m driving to work at 4:40 AM, I spend that 10 minutes in silence and in prayer or meditation, listening for God’s intentions for me for the day. No radio, no distractions. I have a specific prayer I say (see below), along with the Lord’s Prayer, then whatever else comes to mind that I may think I need for the day. By setting the intent to be open to whatever the Lord presents on that day, it helps me stay grounded and more mindful of surrendering to His plan for the day.
Morning Prayer – Before beginning the day’s work
Give me, Dear Lord, a pure heart and a wise mind, that I may carry out my work according to your will. Save me from all false desires, from pride, greed, envy and anger. Let me accept joyfully every task you set before me. Let me seek to serve the poor, the sad, and those unable to work.
Help me to discern honestly my own gifts that I may do the things of which I am capable, and happily and humbly leave the rest to others.
Above all, remind me constantly that I have nothing except what you give me, and can do nothing except what you enable me to do. In the name of the Lord. (Lord’s Prayer) Amen.
~The prayer of Jacob Boehme, a shoemaker
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