I want to have it all. Even on days when I question it, I won’t give up. For me, “having it all” requires a series of conscious choices and sacrifices in order to achieve what I want. Having a baby while managing a career truly tested my ability to tango with work-life balance and I found that it can be a great dance, provided you focus on the rhythm versus the balance.
In order to ensure I could “have it all” I had to decide what I really want in life and work. So, how do I get what I want and find a work-life balance that suits me?
Make a Conscious Choice and Sacrifice
To do this, I made a list of the things that truly matter most to me. Narrowing this list to a handful of things was easy because I have very little spare time. After creating my list, I had to create a plan of action.
I’ll speak to a couple of things that I decided were “musts” in my personal life as I believe these two things are often thought of as being impossible for the working mom. The first thing that I decided I could not live without is exercise. Pre-baby I could work out whenever I felt like it; this is now a different story because I have to be at work by 8:30am and I also want to spend my evenings with my daughter. So I had to make a choice: If I chose to work out in the evening, I would have to sacrifice an extra hour of time with my daughter OR I could lose an extra hour of sleep in the morning in order to fit it in. I chose the latter, and hit the gym each morning at 5:30am.
Yes, there are days when I’m tired, but I never regret a work out; however, I do regret not working out – so I get up and make it happen each morning. There are other things that I am equally passionate about and I go through the same exercise – no pun intended – where I make the conscious choice to include whatever it may be in my life and then I usually make some sort of sacrifice to have it there, or keep it there.
In addition to exercise, my husband and I are passionate about “clean eating”. We make the choice to eat fresh food and avoid processed options when at all possible. We wanted to ensure that we follow that same principle with our daughter’s nutrition so we sacrifice 2-3 hours every Sunday to shop, prep, and hand make Brenley’s food, along with our own lunches for the week. I label all of Brenley’s food per the daycare requirements, and weigh/measure all of my meals. Everything goes into the refrigerator and I take what I need each morning with minimal thought. There are definitely times where I want to lounge and watch my DVR that is 79 percent full, and it isn’t always easy to pry my husband away from Sunday football, but we make this a priority and compromise with leaving the television on while we prepare our food. Brenley usually plays in the pantry or sits on my hip while I go into chef mode. I feel it necessary to put a disclaimer for letting your child play in the pantry – I was forced to reorganize our bottom shelf thanks to a “flour bombing” – compliments of my 10 month old daughter. In the end, we have found that it saves time during the week so that when I get home from work Brenley has my undivided attention, and then when she goes to bed I can spend quality time with my husband, chip away at my DVR stash, or read a good book.
Let go of the guilt
I recognized that being a mom also means I will carry more guilt than I’ve ever experienced before. It just comes with the territory, and I accept that. The good news is that all moms share the same guilt even if they are stay-at-home moms. I often hear working mothers say that when they are at work they feel guilty for not being with their families, and when they are with their families they worry about reaching their goals at work. Inversely, I have a girlfriend that stays at home with her son and experiences guilt because she is sacrificing his opportunity to participate in various extracurricular activities in order to cut costs after choosing to leave her job. Keep in mind that feeling guilty and being guilty are two very different things! If you are not guilty then do not punish yourself by feeling guilty all the time.
If you can get rid of the guilt and be intentional, life will be so much more enjoyable. If you are confident that the choices and sacrifices you make are in the best interests of your family then stop the guilt – hold your head up high and move forward!
To keep the work-life tango in motion, focus on the rhythm versus the balance.
Attempt to plan your life in quarters or seasons. There will be times where your job will require more than 50 percent of your time and on the flip-side your family will demand more than 50 percent of your time. Once you have an idea of what each “quarter” will look like for both work and family life then prepare accordingly. There may be quarters where work and life are equally demanding. This is when you tap into your network (a.k.a. “Momtourage”) and rely on the help from others to get you through.
It sounds so simple and in reality it is – but as human beings we often combat the obvious and fail to appreciate the simple things in life. Once you accept the fact that life is full of choices and sacrifices, create a plan for incorporating what you determine is your “all” in life, let go of the guilt and enjoy having it “all”.