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Is there a perfect work/life balance?

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#1 daviesjv

Posted 28 July 2010 - 02:29 PM

We have two girls, aged almost 3 and almost 1 and I have recently gone I’m back to work (3 months ago) for the first time since our oldest was born. It’s been chaos! I know that plenty of people manage it just fine but I could really use some tips on how to combine work and children and keep everyone happy.
We always planned for me to go back to work when our youngest was one. I’m only working three days a week and to be honest I really do enjoy going to work and getting a break from home life. I certainly don’t want to stop working - our budget wouldn’t allow for it anyway -so I’m not looking for ways to cut back working hours but ways to keep the house running smoothly.
Is there such a thing as perfect work/life balance?

Short answer JD - no. I don’t think there is any such thing as “perfect” work/life balance -it’s more just figuring out what works best for you and what makes you happiest. To help you out I have asked advice from Kate James, a working mother and the founder and director of Total Balance.
“Often it’s the day-to-day issues that cause the most stress,” she says. “As you said, keeping the house running smoothly. And the key, really, is being super-organised -which doesn’t have to be a difficult as it sounds.”
Kate suggests the following:
  • Break household chores down into small chunks rather than letting them build up into a really big job. So perhaps spend 10 minutes cleaning each evening after the kids have gone to bed and before you sit down, rather than leaving it all until the weekend. Or do 10 minutes of ironing each night rather than waiting until you’ve run out of clothes.
  • Also, mornings are when we are often most rushed - and there’s nothing worse than starting the work day feeling pressured. So get everything ready the night before - your clothes, the kids’ clothes and bags of daycare, food for you to take to work. That will help relieve your early-morning pressure.
  • And JD, Kate recommends that your three y.o. is old enough to enjoy helping out (as is your partner, too!). “Draw up a chart of little tasks that your three year-old can do to help out, something for each day,” she says. “It really empowers them and teaches them independence which is a great thing. They’ll love the positive encouragement and reinforcement as well.”

In short - it’s getting into a planning routine that works for you. Personally, I find cooking double-size meals (so that I can freeze one) and doing my grocery shopping online are huge time and stress savers for me.

But balance all that planning with some down time as well. “You do need to be able to relax a little bit - that might mean lowering your housework standards a little bit,” says Kate. “You do need to have realistic expectations of yourself and what you can comfortably achieve. It’s not good for your stress levels to be always multitasking  - yes, you can be helping your child with their homework while you cook dinner - but sometimes you do have to take time out to concentrate on one thing at a time.”

So JD, that might mean ignoring the dishes in the sink while you read a book to your kids, or play hide and seek with them. Or it might mean delaying the dinner for ten minutes while you have a glass of wine with your partner. “Remember what your priorities are,” says Kate. “Take the time to reconnect with the kids and your partner in the evening. There will always be another task that needs to be done -make the time to ignore those tasks and spend ten of fifteen minutes of devoted time with your family. It will really refresh both you and them.”

So no, as I said I don’t think there is a “perfect” work/life balance. But by keeping in mind your top priorities -and with some forward planning - you can have a pretty damn good balance that will keep you all happy! original.gif

EB Members: What are some great time-saving tips for helping your day run smoothly?

#2 babblefish

Posted 29 July 2010 - 01:40 PM

A few tips that helped me:

On the weekend I cooked sauces that would create meals (vege & chicken in creamy sauce, just add pasta, rice or pastry base for pie, same with bolognaise etc)

I swept & vacuumed on morning before leaving. It only takes me 15mins to do this, so instead of doing it at night when I felt most stressed and tired, I'd do my mid-week tidy whilst the kids had breaky they could feed themselves.

Some days because of proximity, I could get home for 10mins to put on washing, cook pasta etc before I did daycare pickup.

I always had small snacks/water in car for kids to eat so when I got home they were okay to wait for dinner to be cooked.

Doing washing at night, hanging out after kids go to bed was a big time saver for me also.


#3 Marge10

Posted 30 July 2010 - 02:15 PM

Actually, I've just written in my blog about this - I became a contractor, taking on, say, a six month contract and staying the rest of the year at home
The advantages:
  • I had more time with my kids
  • each new contract felt a honeymoon
  • feeling "free" - effectively I was self-employed
  • getting paid more
  • a less stressful year - I could get on top of life at home before returning to work
The disadvantages:

  • "losing" your career - once you contract, its hard to get permanent work
  • contracts aren't always available when you want
  • you might get the work no one else wants
  • contractors are regarded as second class to full time employees and get the axe first in economic down times
  • there is no performance review process
  • is hard for the kids as they get used to you being at home
ยท I

#4 Amorey

Posted 02 August 2010 - 03:34 PM

We have a boy 5 and half and girl 2 and a half and a very full on life. They go to school and daycare and I work full time with one day working at home, my husband does 4 days a week Wed to Sat, it's hectic that is for sure! How do we keep it together and find the right balance, we plan, plan and plan! Sounds boring I know although it really is the key to things running smoothly for us. There are always hiccups like if one of us is sick, most of the time it works. So along with the suggestions in the blog which we already use, here are my key things that keep our house running rolleyes.gif
1) if you can afford it get a cleaner, best investment we ever made to our sanity. We do the general cleans and the cleaner does the hard stuff
2) menu plan, we set out the menu each week including nights out and shop once, if we run out of stuff we improvise!
3)fold straight from the drier to the basket or hang up straight away, cuts out almost all ironing
4) have a calender review session each week and put everything on the calender, it keeps us on track
5) schedule 1 free weekend with no activities each month, they become sacred downtimes for all of us where we can just go with the flow

Good luck and don't sweat the small stuff, as long as the kids and family are fed, happy and healthy and you have some time to be yourself that is a measure of balance

#5 Leeeee

Posted 04 August 2010 - 09:30 PM

Accept that you won't be having gourmet meals on the days that you work.  Scrambled eggs and beans on toast are perfectly acceptable dinners.  Frozen vegies are winners.

House hold tasks can wait, it's more important to spend time with the kids and your partner.  You are not an evil, dirty person if there are dishes on the sink.

I hang my wet washing onto hangers so I can put it straight into the wardrobe when it is dry, so only have to fold smalls.  I now sometimes don't fold smalls or face washers!

Remember to plan for some you time!

Good luck!

#6 natnoodle

Posted 05 August 2010 - 01:44 PM

I think I could of writtern half of these replies word for word...
We have 16 month old, my husband works 5 days and the odd saturday morning, I work 4 days a week and we have no family near by so put our DD in daycare the days I work.  We also run 250 acre farm - not big on some scales but the work can only be done on weekends or after work.  The few things that have helped us out to keep our sanity include:

1. We pay a cleaner to come in once a fortnight to do the big clean;
2. I do washing of an evening, I also have a timer on my washing machine so I often set it to start a load around 5am so it's ready to hang out when we get up in the morning;
3. I cook double for all our meals so we can either have left overs to take to work for lunches or I freeze portions for DD meals;
4. All clothes, bags, lunches etc are pack and ready the night before so the morning runs smoothly
5. No matter how much we have to do, Sunday afternoons are famiy time and we either go out of lunch or a drive somewhere and spend time together.

I use to try and think that I could do it all but have slowly realised since going back to work and looking after family that if the dishes aren't done or there is washing all over the place but we are feed, clothed and happy and that all that matters.

#7 smultron

Posted 11 August 2010 - 12:57 PM

i also am SAHM to 3 children- two at school, ages 8,6,3.. I also felt resentful for a while around 2yrs ago when I seemed to constantly be looking after working friends' kids (and not paid for it) while they went out to work on the occasions when they were really 'stuck' for childcare.  even sick kids sometimes.. i was so mad that my Dh asked why he was out working so that I could be home and care for other parents kids too (and usually expected to feed them etc).  I just stopped offering: kept my mouth shut when they started on about how there wsa going to be a tricky time in x mths when there was a bg project on/ teaching rounds etc.. I am happy for other kids to come to me for a play but NOT an 8-9hr day while their parents are out earning money- that's not fair to me, my DH or my own children.  I am so much happier now that I have decided that I will be in control and not feel guilty about not 'helping out' my working friends. We have decided that I will be SAHM for a bit longer- we don't have any family nearby to help when we are stuck so you quikcly work that out for yourselves.. it's been the best choice for us and we have happy, less stressed kids and parents!

#8 miriams

Posted 11 August 2010 - 01:34 PM

The same thing was happening to us several years ago. Eventually I just had to say no. A few people got huffy about it but just like you, it was the expectation that I look after sick kids that was the final straw. It's the assumption that you've got nothing better to do that irked me rather than looking after the kids. Everyone needs a hand now and then but they shouldn't expect free childcare on a regular basis. Oh well... rolleyes.gif

#9 surts

Posted 11 August 2010 - 04:20 PM

My motto is :  "I'm allowed to ask - they're allowed to say no" and vice versa.

Sounds like you must learn to say no (harder than it sounds).  The next part of saying no is being ok with it and not carrying any guilt if it doesn't fly with the person on the no recieving end.

The same goes in reverse.  If you ask someone to do something then you must be prepared to hear and accept no graciously.  

Anyone who argues with you once you have said no is simply trying to control you and that's a big not ok (I got that last bit from Oprah)    "-)

#10 dessiesgirl

Posted 12 August 2010 - 11:25 AM

In answer to the feeling used as a SAHM, I know just how you feel.

A "friend" of mine asked me to look after her 18mo one day a week so she could work. Then it graduated to also picking up her other child from preschool. She was paying me  - $20 a day, which she said was all she could afford or it would not be "worth it for her" Then she started giving me a cheque, as it was "easier for her not to go to the bank". Never mind that I had to go to bank her chq!! At the time, DD was 4. At the end of that year, I told my "friend" I didn't want to take care of her child the following year, as I wanted to spenf the last year of DD being at home before school doing stuff we wanted to do, and without having to be home for her child to have a sleep.

I ignored the guilt trip she put on me about having to give up her job (she didn't - she found a family day carer) and did what I should have done right from the start - put my  and my DDs needs first!!

Not friends any more, and don't miss it!!

#11 dessiesgirl

Posted 12 August 2010 - 11:31 AM

Also, meant to add there was a mother from my mother's group who asked me to look after her child when she had to go back to work after her maternity leave.  I said no, because I din't want that permanent committment, but said I was happy to help  out occasionally if she was stuck. She was quite put out at being told no, and said, "Oh, I just thought you'd like the extra money" Clearly my second hand pram didn't cut it!!

#12 chrisl

Posted 17 August 2010 - 10:11 AM

It's not rocket science - just say no. Make an excuse if you feel uncomfortable saying no. If people have a problem with you saying no they are clearly not very understanding friends.
there is a bit of the matyr syndrome going on here.

I am about to go back to work after the second child. I went back to work after the first one (part time at first then full time). I think I've asked my friends to watch my child for an hour or two maybe twice in 3 years. It was when I had a specialist appointment or something. We use child care and if needed, we pay babysitters. We ask family if we have to. Maybe you should ask for payment for services so everyone is happy. I sometimes have friends who offer to help out and generally I say no because I know they are busy with their own children and don't expect them to look after mine as well unless we take turns babysitting for one another (which we sometimes also do).
Not all working mums are selfish cows who treat SAHMs like slaves. After doing both jobs, they are both hard.

#13 joderine

Posted 24 August 2010 - 10:33 AM

My husband works 6 days a week and I work 3 days and have done since our daughter was 4 months old. She is now 11 months.

I start work early so I can come home early to pick her up from daycare and we have the same routine every day whether it is a working day or not.

As soon as I get home I put a load of washing on and unstack the dishwasher.

Each day at 5 she has her dinner and then plays with her toys while I get all her stuff ready for daycare the next day inc all her meals.

Hubby gets home at 5.30 and plays with her for half an hr and gets her ready for bath while I put dinner on - I finish the bath while hubby finishes dinner and then feed and bed for her at 7pm.

Then we both clean up the kitchen, stack the dishwasher, I do a load of folding clothes from the day before, ironing for 10 minutes ONLY and a tidy up of her toys.

We can then sit down for dinner together and everything is done! And it is only 7.30!
It can be done rolleyes.gif BUT I do have a super husband who helps with everything.

I think the key is being super organised - but we make sure we don't miss out on spending time with our daughter otherwise the "guilts" start!
If we don't get everything done by the time she goes to bed we just have to do it straight after!

Having everything organised also means we get to spend time together relaxed at the end of the day which is essential.

We also have a cleaner once a fortnight to do the floors and bathroom so this helps a lot - otherwise hubby takes our girl out for a walk for an hr on a sunday and I did this when we couldnt afford a cleaner.

Hope this helps!

#14 anon60

Posted 24 August 2010 - 10:38 AM

I'm wondering this at the moment ( I currently work P/t but looking at going F/T). While my family is grown, I'm wondering if I really want to do the "leave the house at 7am, get home at 7pm" trek. The last time I was doing that, I was falling into bed by 830pm, was spending next to no time with my family (DH & 4 kids) or doing the things I enjoy (both family stuff, going to the gym, and my own hobbies), and felt like I was living to work, not working to live. I was too tired most nights, to pay any attention to DH.

Edited by anon60, 24 August 2010 - 10:43 AM.

#15 Duechristmasday

Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:51 PM

I have 5 kids and am a stay at home mum.  I so not have much help, which does not bother me all that much.  I decided not to go back to work because it was not financially viable for me to pay someone else to help with the children based on the income that I would receive.

Anyway, I stumbled accross your article about feeling used by friends, neighbours etc and could have written your story word for word.  

I feel quite used at times by my neighbours and friends as the only times that they ever call me is because they need me for something.  They very rarely thank me, and I think I get more offended that they dont even stop in for a quick coffee or chat with me and ask me how I am, instead they just drop off their kids, borrow my things, ask me to bring their kids home etc....

the fact is that I have 5 kids and am really busy with my own, including my 3 month old and 18 month old babies, so why do people keep asking me to do them favors?.  i find that when i dont offer or say no that they give me the cold shoulder.

The worst part is that the worst offending mum does not work and is a stay at home mum herself, she sends them over when she needs to go to the gym, pick up her car from having a service, or to go and have her hair or nails done.  the kids have bad manners and I find them incredibly rude.  Last time they came over they whinged the whole time that they were bored/hungry and threw toys around the house .  

We are not a family that does allot of playdates as we tend to do allot of family things together, and this particular person makes many comments about me not going out all that much etc..... it makes me feel extremely inferior.  I really hate having neighbors that are in my face like this, I feel like I cannot escape.

How do i politely tell this person that she makes me feel this way?  if only I ever got some gratitude or she treated me like a friend instead of her paid worker.

#16 IVF Baby

Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:14 PM

I think this is such an individual personal thing.  What suits and may work for one, might not work for another and that is fine.

For example, in my case - I was not made to be a stay at home mum, 8 months I did it for and I went insane.  This doesn't mean I love my son any less.

I work full time, I run around when I get home, get him showered, fed, in bed, his bag packed for day care and in the car, my bag in the car and all my clothes out for the next day.  And yes, I am hectic, but I love it.  I don't sit still very well at all.  I have a very busy, well paying, job of some responsibility that I thoroughly enjoy.  It also gives me satisfaction to know I can afford a few extras and that my son will grow up with what he needs and some of what he just plain old wants.

His happy attitude and smiles when I drop him off at day care and that I know his carers smoother him with attention all day is great.

This might be someone elses's nightmare too.

Each to their own.

#17 BetteBoop

Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:59 PM

As PPs have said cook in bulk. I love my slow cooker because I can whack it on the morning and come home to dinner.
Meal planning.
Online groceries can be done at work in your lunchtime.
Negotiate work from home arrangements if possible. I've done this and done my paid work late at night which has given me days to do chores.

QUOTE (anon60 @ 24/08/2010, 10:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm wondering this at the moment ( I currently work P/t but looking at going F/T). While my family is grown, I'm wondering if I really want to do the "leave the house at 7am, get home at 7pm" trek. The last time I was doing that, I was falling into bed by 830pm, was spending next to no time with my family (DH & 4 kids) or doing the things I enjoy (both family stuff, going to the gym, and my own hobbies), and felt like I was living to work, not working to live. I was too tired most nights, to pay any attention to DH.

Sounds about right.

I've been working FT for about 7 months now. I'm exhausted most of the time.

I've been given the choice between going back to my 2 day a week job or staying in my current role full time. The difference in pay is a multiplication factor of 3-4 times and we need the money right now.

But I'm taking the 2 day a week role. Life is too short.

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