As a working mum, I am very conscious of the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I love my job and, if I let it, work can very easily consume all my spare time. Working from home makes it that much easier to quickly log-on and do a few bits and pieces.
I learned very quickly that work-life balance looks very different once you have children. Before I had my daughter it was easy to dedicate a certain number of hours to work and the rest for leisure; but things aren’t that simple with young children. Children, especially babies, needs are constantly changing, which means the quest for balance can seem somewhat never ending. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, the scales shift and something needs to change.
I had two weeks off work after my daughter’s birth. After a week at home, I found myself getting bored and wanted to start working again. (Side note – I had a very content newborn with no health issues. She would wake, feed, and go back to sleep. All my friends and family work, so I didn’t have lots of visitors.)
I started working from home during Lilly’s naps, doing doing a couple of hours here and there, but quite quickly went to five or more hours a day.
‘I’ve found the balance’, I thought.
But I hadn’t. After a couple of weeks I felt isolated and lonely. I didn’t like being in the house by myself all day. If I was working I wanted to be in the office where I could interact with people.
So that’s what I did. I went back to work at the office and took Lilly with me. Before long we were going in five days a week and I was working close to full time hours.
When Lilly was three of four months old I decided that I needed to re-think my work-life balance. She was awake for longer and I wanted to spend more quality time with her without being constrained by my work commitments. I was also starting to get tired of the routine – wake up, get ready, travel, work, travel, bath, bed – and wanted some more flexibility.
I cut my working days down to three per week and had two days at home as ‘Mummy and Lilly days’, as I like to call them. We enrolled in Gymbaroo, swimming and went to Rhyme Time at the local library. I started going to mother’s group. It was great. ‘I’ve got the balance right now!’ I thought, and I did have for a while; but, of course, it shifted again.
After about four months of this routine I felt fed up. I had got into the habit of working every evening and I wasn’t making any time for myself. I enjoy working and it was far more productive to use my evenings working than watching the telly, but productivity isn’t everything and I needed some time out. I also felt disconnected and wanted to meet more like-minded parents. That was when I started this blog. I now spend far fewer evenings working and many more on this blog and I feel much more balanced.
The long-term plan is that Lilly will stay with my husband for two days a week and my mum one day a week while I work. My new focus is working on a transition towards this plan, so I am now working from home for one full day per week while my mum looks after Lilly. Luckily my mum’s house is less than a 2 minute drive from my house so I can pop over and breastfeed Lilly, comfort her, or just play with her if I feel like it.
Sure, my work-life arrangements have changed a lot over the last 10 months, but I have felt balanced at each step of the way. The point is that our lives are constantly changing. Balance is not a static thing. The scales will shift and we need to remain mindful of the changes and ask ourselves if the status quo is still working for us.