Our family has felt a tad overextended recently. It is all due to good things and in many ways we have felt very blessed, but it has also been exhausting. In the midst of all the juggling and rushing and cramming in too much, I realized that my boys were getting increasingly cranky and whiny and that I, in turn, was getting grumpier with them. There were moments when I thought to myself, “why are they being so difficult?! Don’t they understand that I have work to do?!” And then I (finally) realized that their whining and bickering was because they wanted and needed attention from me. They were begging for it.
I decided that I needed to make a change so that I could honor their needs, and also my own. I made a commitment that when they were at school, I would focus on work. No personal phone calls, emails, Facebook, laundry, cleaning, errands, etc. And when they were home, I would focus on being more present for them and also do some of the home-related chores that needed to get done (laundry, cooking, etc.). No surprise here: it worked like a charm. The whining and fighting decreased but, more importantly, I was less cranky with them. I no longer resented their interruptions and was able to be much more flexible and present.
Building in Balance
For those of us that work from home, just this is a great lesson. But I think there is a bigger lesson here in terms of creating balance through the use of boundaries that can apply to everyone. As we juggle many obligations—professional, familial, and communal—creating times and spaces in which we can fulfill those obligations can be incredibly helpful and much more efficient. Work-life balance, I find, doesn’t just naturally happen; it requires some sort of structure. Here are some tricks that I have found to be helpful for me:
Create a schedule
Carve out times for the things that you need to get done. Maybe it’s a few hours on the weekend to take care of that work project that has been hanging over your head. Perhaps it’s a couple hours to prep dinners or lunches for the week. Possibly it’s time to go to the playground with your kids. Maybe it’s time for self-care. For some of us, there may be a weekly schedule that works best — for others, it might be a daily or weekly organizing session. Either way, take the time to figure out a plan to fit things in so you don’t have to worry about it and can enjoy the moment you are in when you are in it.
Take temptation away
If you are someone who, like me, is tempted to quickly check your email or social media pages instead of focusing on the task at hand, then actively remove the temptation. For example, one thing I recently did that has made a huge impact on my focus is that I removed the Facebook app from my phone. Now, if want to check Facebook on my phone, I have to actively log in.
Find ways to include your kids and/or partner
Folding laundry, making dinner, cleaning the house. Try to find ways to make those jobs ones that you can do together in some fun way. Maybe it’s playing fun music so you can all dance to while you clean up, or perhaps it’s finding cooking tasks for everyone so you can spend time in the kitchen together. If you can make these activities fun family times, you’ve got extra hands and everything will get done faster!
Learn to say “no”
If you are someone, like me, who takes on more than you can realistically (and happily!) do, then learn to say “no.” When we overextend ourselves, we end up doing everyone a disservice because either we burn out or we can’t fulfill all of the obligations we have taken on. If saying “no” is too hard, maybe the first step is trying to say “not now, but maybe another time.”
Learn to say “yes”
If someone offers help that you could really use, accept it graciously. It’s ok not to do it all ourselves!
Don’t forget yourself
Self-care is essential to being able to fulfill all our other obligations. Think about it: how are you more efficient? When you are well-rested, calm, and happy, or when you are exhausted, hungry, and feeling blah? This doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, but try to find at least 15 minutes each day that can be all yours.
Do you have ways that you use to build balance into your life? I’d LOVE to hear about them in the comments. And if you are looking for a way to ease the burden of making dinner, our family-friendly meal plans can help to simplify the dinnertime scramble.