Work, Motherhood and More
Give Yourself Grace
Top Tips for Success from an Experienced Mom, Employee, and Partner
Work-life balance is a worn-out topic discussed in books, articles, blogs, TV shows, and movies. Everyone seems to offer opinions and suggestions.
As Mother’s Day 2023 approaches, I’m here to add my perspective to the discussion and, hopefully, not merely to beat a dead horse.
My husband and I last year celebrated our youngest child’s college graduation. Emma’s commencement from UC Davis felt like our own milestone; shepherding three kids through school was a financial, emotional, and historic family victory.
My husband’s two jobs and my own demanding career meant raising three happy, healthy children to adulthood was a huge challenge. We laughingly reminisce that we can barely remember the 1990s since that decade included our most stress-filled, sleep-deprived, child-rearing years.
Even today, though our kids are adults, parenthood remains challenging, time-consuming, and worrisome – especially when we strive simultaneously for successful careers and a fulfilling, loving marriage.
I believe ‘work-life balance’ is a nice-sounding misnomer and an unattainable goal.
Successfully dealing with the multitude of life’s often-conflicting demands is more akin to a juggling act: It’s like keeping too many balls spinning in the air while jerking back and forth on a moving unicycle – all while surrounded by blaring circus music and the bright colors and murmurs of the surrounding crowd.
But, balance we do. I’m luckier than many friends and colleagues – my husband Les has always shouldered more than his share of household chores and childrearing tasks. The laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, and grocery shopping are shared responsibilities in our house – a reasonable solution that we believe has set a wonderful example for our children.
More times than I can count, I’ve fielded phone calls for work, filled out paperwork, and completed other office tasks while rooting for my kids’ teams in the bleachers at a Northeast Santa Ana Little League baseball game.
Fortunately, I’ve had bosses and jobs that allowed me a great deal of flexibility in terms of scheduling. Now that I work for myself I can fit work, family and life demands into whatever schedule I deem workable. These days you might find me meeting an early deadline in my PJs or working late in the same sweats I wore to my earlier Tai Chi class.
Such flexibility is not only practical; it fosters my creativity and makes work enjoyable, as I break up deadlines and assignments with loads of laundry, gardening, and other errands and chores.
If you love your family and your job, there are some simple ways to juggle everything with minimal distress. None of these ideas are easy, but they help immensely.
Make family a priority.
If the floor needs vacuuming but it’s storytime, bathtime, and bedtime, always opt to spend the time with your kids. The messy floor will always be there, but your kids grow up fast. The same goes for family gatherings, visits with grandparents, and extracurricular activities – always choose to attend rather than stay home. The work will wait.
Spread the wealth.
This means a reasonable division of duties. If you get home first, it makes sense that you pick up the kids from school, help them with their homework, and start dinner. If you come home late, it’s kind and considerate to volunteer to clear the table, take over bathtime, and start on the dishes.
Teach kids responsibility early on.
As the children are old enough, they should be given household chores to assist mom and dad. These can be simple but oh-so-helpful, like brushing the dog, setting the table, and even replacing tissue in the bathroom. As kids age, they can take on more complex responsibilities. This teaches them to be considerate family members who contribute what they can to the group’s health and happiness.
Ask for help.
Sometimes you desperately need a date night, an afternoon to yourself, or a solitary walk. Don’t hesitate to ask your parents, siblings, friends, and partners to assist. Even the best caregivers need some downtime. So do you.
Lower your standards.
This was probably the most difficult thing for me to accept about married and family life. Still, with three kids and three jobs between us, our house and yard would never meet the standards my stay-at-home Mom set for me. I’ve learned to live with some crumbs on the counter and dust bunnies rolling across the floor, and it’s been worth it to spend the erstwhile ‘cleaning time’ with my family instead.
Keep fresh air and exercise on your schedule.
I ignored this for a long time, but I’ve discovered that exercise, walking, communing with nature, and even working in the garden can add fresh air, sunshine, and fitness to your life. For so long, I came last in all priorities and as a result, my health suffered. Today, I prioritize emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual fitness, improving my well-being.
Give yourself grace.
This is another tough one, but it’s so important. Along with lowering your standards, letting yourself fall and taking your time getting up is a kindness you would show a dear friend. Allowing yourself grace means getting your necessary rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation – key ways to continue being a good mother, loving partner, and involved parent. Give yourself a break. Everyone will feel better as a result.