I was asked to talk about my work-life balance by The Wooden Furniture store for their Family First Campaign. I’ve been back at work now for 10 months, the same period of time I ended up having off work, after Harrison was born. So every things back to normal, right? We’ve totally got this and I have such a good work-life balance, well not quite, not all the time.
You see its hard, theres no way to sugar coat it.
It’s a constant juggling act and you always feel like your letting one side slip. Something someone once said to me has always stuck in my brain. It wounded me slightly and its never quite healed. ‘If your going to work full-time and not see your kids, there’s no point having them’. Theres an underlying sense of guilt which is overwhelmingly intense when you first return back to work. And the anxiety in the months leading up to your first day back at work is pretty awful. Well it was for me, and I’ve spoken to lots of mum’s who felt the same. It does get easier and working and nursery / child-minder drop offs, just become part of your new life.
Harrison loves nursery and the staff. I quite often sneak in the door quietly, to peer through to his room, to catch a glimpse of what he’s doing, unawares. he’s always bounding about without a care in the world.
But it can be hard to balance work and having a child, especially when they’re ill. In their first year they’re still building up their immune system and once they’re mingling with other kids at nursery on a daily basis, they just catch everything going. We’ve had hand foot and mouth, conjunctivitis, and chicken pox. A few million colds and a couple of ear infections. It’s inevitable you will have to take some time off at some point, but this is where friends and family can really help and step in, if you ask, and if you let them. We’re not all good at doing that though. (Raises hand sheepishly).
Working a 4 day week.
Being able to take a day off in the week and work a 4 day week, instead of 5 has worked really well for us. I felt a huge amount of pressure to return full-time, and I’m so glad I have the freedom to be able to work 4, I know not everyone has this choice. Your life just isn’t the same any more, so there’s no point pretending you can just pick up where you left of. Inevitably certain things do have to change, and there does need to be compromises.
We take a Wednesday off, so it breaks up the week nicely. If things are super busy or somethings getting on top of me, I only ever have 2 days to get through, until a break. We normally go out for the morning, to a toddler group, trampolining, a farm, somewhere where Harrison can run about and experience new things. We often meet up with friends too and I get to catch up on gossip, if I get 2 minutes where I’m not running after Harrison.
Then I’ll tell you a secret, I prefer it if we can eat out, as I simply don’t have the mess then to deal with at home. But we’ll sit down and eat together and by this time he’s getting sleepy. Then we do the most wonderful thing to recharge, the both of us that is.
We nap together, and I love it.
I fought it so much when Harrison was little, I had this feeling, I had to use the time to get jobs done. Pressure to tidy up, get on top of things. I’ve slowly learnt this time is important for me as well as Harrison, I need the rest, and the snuggle’s don’t hurt either.
I also try to plan ahead and book events and day trips, and just seeing friends. This gives us things to look forward too. I would however like to do more crafts and creative games with Harrison. Simple time at home where we can just go for a walk in the woods, and collect leaves and treasures. Then come back and get the craft tray out, and see how inspired we can get, or what ideas I can steal off Pinterest.
Part of this is me embracing the mess and prioritising making memories over having a perfect spotless house. (I don’t have one by the way, does anyone with a toddler?)
So you see I don’t think you just achieve a work-life balance, get the badge and that’s it. No, you have to constantly work at it. Our lives are forever changing, and the goal posts are always moving. So I’m still in pursuit of our complete balance, but being organised does massively help. Being time savvy by batch cooking, online food shopping, getting an ironing lady, these things all help to give me more time back with Harrison, and also importantly for myself.
How do you achieve a good work-life balance?