How To Weigh Your Work-Life Balance

February 03, 2018

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story... One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor... I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.
- Sylvia Plath 

At the end of the week, I am still happy with my decision to be a working mum - but this week has really challenged me. I’ve recorded two vlogs this week that I’ve binned as they were just too downbeat upon reflection. One about working mum guilt, and the other about the day the kids' school was shut.

We had no water for a day last week in my entire suburb, and I only discovered this when I rolled into school with two kids trailing behind me at 7.45am and was told THE SCHOOL WAS SHUT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. I'd had a cold birdbath earlier but put the lack of hot shower down to a plumbing issue. Overall, a stressful start to the day. I needed to be in at work, and I was already at about 3pm in the afternoon in my head. How was I going to get immediate approval for a hire in Germany and a base salary increase that I knew would get a candidate over the line?

The kids were back at “this is the most exciting day ever! NO School! Tracky bottoms all day! I want to go straight home and MAKE a MESS!”

I quickly rustled up Plan B: I dropped the children to a lovely school mum for a few hours and then the childminder agreed to do some extra hours. I dialled in for my first call from the tube station, then was in the office for the rest of my day. Possibly, I pulled off looking like a swan but oh my the webbed feet were peddling hard below the surface!

The kids spent a fortune pottery painting and although unnecessary the budget also stretched to flowers for my friend who stepped into the breach. Expensive, but we did it.

That question lurked at the back of my head was:


Am I doing the right thing being a working mum?


By the afternoon of No-School Day, the WhatsApp messages were flying with photos of shiny happy families having a high old time at the museum, at Kidzania, snuggling on the sofa. And there’s me, in at work in the drizzling cold til 6.45pm. Was I doing the right thing? FOR ME, Absolutely.


Do what feels right for you, at any particular stage 

For work-life balance to be realised, a person must learn how to align their work with their core values 

Mummies come in all different types and personalities, with different preferences and aspirations. For me, baking, lengthy park visits, arts and crafts are just not my thing. I tried, I really tried for six years. I was frightened of not providing the maternal nurturing for my kids that I had.

As it has turned out, I love the intellectual challenge of my job and that made me a more fulfilled and happier with the family. Now, I will come in, throw my coat off and roll on the rug with the kids. Before, at 7pm I would have been ropey and tired and be craving calm, order, a glass of wine and grown up time...

Sure, I feel challenged about not being there for my kids more, and if that is your deepest conviction and economically you can do it then stay where you are. Happy SAHMs, with a few survival strategies are a firm foundation of society, I really believe that.

But if you are not sure, DO NOT WORRY.  YOU HAVE TIME. By 2020, over 50s will comprise a third third of the working population and the government supports an increase on this figure.

Never has there been more opportunity to reinvent yourself, at any stage of your life. I have seen a whole industry blossom, of helping parents get back into full time jobs after a break, companies like Path Forward have useful webinars you can watch. Oakleaf  in London does job-shares, interim and part-time roles for HR returners. Women Returners do what they say on the tin and organise internships.

Don't be afraid to tech up in your own time. General Assembly runs phenomenal courses and has a downloadable briefing on skillling up and getting into tech.

My message: at your own pace. No-one will ever put the pressure on me that I can put on myself! You do not need to make a decision today, tomorrow or in 2019. Listen to what your gut tells you and as long as it works for you and your nearest and dearest, stick with it.

In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, “career is a jungle gym not a straight ladder”. Do what's right for you, at the time you make that decision, and the rest will work out.

Doing the best thing means being true to yourself. Always be grabbing the juiciest figs - and take them home. 


Ten Tips For A Better Work-Life Balance (Guardian)

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