Work-life balance has become a bit of a buzz phrase, especially among mompreneurs who are building a business while raising a family. This ideal is often sought after and discussed as missing from our lives. Seeking to find a balance between competing desires and responsibilities personally and professionally can be daunting. But is it balance that we're searching for?
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A strong desire for work-life balance is evident in the many blogs on the subject. More exercise or improving fitness, pursuing a career ambition, taking up a new hobby, and spending more time with family are frequently among the most popular resolutions—all are aspects of daily life. And all of these pursuits are driven by the desire to have time for everything important to us.
We are constantly chasing the next idea to balance seemingly competing priorities. For women who are working mothers or mompreneurs, there are additional considerations. Many women are navigating the added priorities (and stresses) of raising children, often carrying the bulk of daily household responsibilities, in addition to trying to carve time for self-care and a career.
Historically, employers have viewed work as separate from the rest of our lives. The COVID pandemic's impact on our lifestyles has further blurred the already fading lines of distinction between work and life. With more people working from home than ever before and children home for online schooling, work and the rest of life are intertwined now more than ever.
What Is Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is defined as the equilibrium between personal life and career work. Equilibrium is a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced. However, work and “the rest of life” aren’t separate entities that require equal weight. They are parts of the whole that make up our lives.
Do we really seek to “balance” the amount of time and effort that we put into every area equally? Or are we seeking a way to create fulfillment in all areas of life?
Keeping score and making sure the scales are "equal" make our lives sound more like an equation than a delicate dance of finding what works for us to be at our best and feel fulfilled.
Viewing all aspects in relation to each other and integrating the parts to work together are the keys to feeling fulfilled and achieving inner peace.
Related Reading: Values and Work-Life Balance: What Is Most Important?
How to Balance Work and Life
The goal of balance is to work with personal activities, career, social life, and relationship and family priorities, creating harmony where no facet of work and life is viewed separately. As a whole, and in relationship with each other, fluidity and integration of all parts become both cohesive and responsive.
Thinking of work as a part of life (versus separate from life) creates a sense of wholeness instead of different elements of our life competing for attention. It is the competition of needs and desires that create imbalance.
Approach balance with the goal of connection and synergy between all areas of your life (work, home, family, community, personal interests, and your well-being). With this perspective, we are not at war within ourselves. When we do need to juggle multiple balls, there is ease since we are present and mindful of our choices. Listening to our inner emotional GPS gives us a roadmap.
“You will never feel truly satisfied by work
until you are satisfied by life.”
~Heather Schuck, The Working Mom Manifesto
Integrate a Holistic Work-Life Balance
Integrating all aspects of your life and seeing them all as parts of a whole provides clarity. This lucidity allows you to make decisions that align with your values and then honor your commitments.
Heads up: The added awareness may require you to say no more often to opportunities and demands that don't match your values or goals.)
Some other benefits of a holistic approach to a work-life balance are:
- less stress
- enhanced enjoyment of life
- better mental health
- more rest and leisure time
- improved overall health
- increased inner peace
Ease replaces rigidity and competition. Working more or less is not specifically the goal. The goal is to understand our needs and shift daily—even hourly—our work habits and patterns to support well-being while also achieving career aspirations or fulfilling work requirements on the job.
What steps will you take to identify key priorities related to work-life balance issues?
Related reading: "Successfully Juggle a Teacher and a Full-Time Mom."
5 Tips for Achieving Work-Life Balance
TIP 1: Create a plan and structure that is firm, yet flexible.
When creating a plan for work-life balance, lists, calendars, and a master schedule showing ALL responsibilities and priorities help us integrate the parts into the whole. Use whatever works best for you and your family to plan and prioritize together.
Seek to understand what structure is needed to feel fulfilled and bring more ease to your daily life. The goal is not to control time but to understand and structure how you use time. Make time work for you and your business.
Related Reading: Why Time Management for Moms Is a Myth
Reevaluate your plan regularly to make necessary adjustments. The more complex your life, the more critical planning and reevaluation are. The different seasons of our lives bring about changes that require us to update and readjust what we expect of ourselves.
For instance, I remember doing an awareness activity with a woman years ago. My client came to me because she felt she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Stressed and exhausted, she was racing from one thing to another—enjoying nothing.
In our coaching, she realized her life was squeezed into the same demanding schedule as when she was single! Now, married with two young children, there was no time for either role, which resulted in frequent conflicts with her husband and continual power struggles with her children. Every day was a marathon; one big competition for attention.
This mother made the mistake of trying to live at the same intensity and do just as much in a completely different season of her life—an impossibility. She was running on fumes! We resculpted her schedule to one of ease. A design created around her highest values and priorities allowed her to enjoy her family and her job while still carving time for self-care and fun hobbies that she had neglected.
TIP 2: Be present to one aspect of life at a time.
Being present means consciously being in the moment and giving that moment your full attention. Mindfulness requires us to have self-compassion.
If we are multi-tasking, moving quickly from one task to another, or our mind is somewhere different from our body, we are not present. Multitasking and pushing ourselves to accomplish more than is reasonable creates tension and burnout. And it's vital to know the difference between healthy versus chronic stress in our pursuit of a work-life balance.
If we are playing with our kids but thinking about a report that is due or creating a dinner plan in our head while we are in a business meeting, we are not present to the people and environment around us, or even our own feelings.
Being present to ourselves allows us to respond more authentically. Being present to others shows that we value the person and enriches the experience more fully. Being present to our projects and tasks is less stressful than multitasking, enabling us to be highly productive. Be present and mindful.
TIP 3: Pay attention and be responsive to the varying terrains and experiences of your life.
Finding a work-life balance is much like a technician balancing a bike wheel. The bike wheel needs to move unencumbered while traversing many kinds of terrains. There are different gears and speeds for uphill, flat, and downhill riding.
The wheel of our lives is similar; we need to adjust according to the seasons of our lives and our changing experiences. We need to use uphill gears and speeds when life hits us with an unexpected loss such as a death in the family or being laid off from a job we loved. Building a business from scratch may also feel like uphill work. However, when our job and families are doing great, again, our balance (and the gears we engage) are distinctive.
So, work-life balance isn’t achieved as a one-time occurrence; it's organic and dynamic.
Life is dynamic!
Listen to the undulations of your life and adjust the gears accordingly. When we practice responsiveness, we learn to be resilient, which enhances happiness.
Deep Dive: "Stress Relief and Work-Life Balance through Mindfulness."
TIP 4: Let go of expectations.
The reality of not meeting our expectations (or another's) can be a source of struggle and pain. Expecting to get it right, never disappointing others, or constantly having an amazing flow every day is unrealistic.
Your needs, desires, and emotions will shift and change. Those you love will also have ups and downs. Relinquishing expectations can help so that we more quickly adapt and move with changing needs and priorities. This flexibility is essential to living a whole and harmonious life. However, this adaption does not mean dropping our values or standards; it means allowing for life's unpredictability and the imperfections of our humanity with more grace, acceptance, and compassion.
Related Reading: Life's Porcupines and Resiliency: Adapting to the Unexpected.
TIP 5: Anchor your daily life with your values and guiding principles.
Our individual values, priorities, and rhythms determine what is best for us and our families at any given moment. The values that guide our lives are best used as the compass for daily balance. And these will be unique for each person and family.
For instance, if world travel is important to you, your life will reflect this value. If security is your top value, you may opt to save rather than travel. Take time to understand what's important to you. Then, let these values steer your decisions.
Understanding how to create and work within a supportive structure allows all parts of life to be fulfilling. However, this skill takes effort and practice. Yet, change IS a constant so be patient with yourself. Learning to work and live your life within constant change is a lifelong process.
Would you like help to live a value-center life or craft ease, fulfillment, and fluidity into your lifestyle? Heartmanity is here to support you! We have the tools and expertise to prevent detours. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.