Hey Working Women, Work-At-Home Moms, Stay-At-Home-Moms, and Working Moms. You’re pursuing your dreams while holding your family or life together. Or at least some days you are. Other days the mystical work-life balance is anything but balanced. It can be tough to feel like you’ve accomplished anything, let alone gave your all to either your job or family.
After I had my baby I had the opportunity to work from home. I won’t go too much into my “day job” (although I write about it more here) other than to say I work for the government, there are long hours, and it is not your typical 9-5. That being said, it is a blessing for me to be able to keep my job but also watch my baby.
Because of my unique situation, I consider myself a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, and a working mom all in one. I understand the blessings and difficulties of each one, such as being able to work still but having to pump at work when an intern walks in on you. (True story.) Working women in today’s “accomplishment driven” society put so much pressure on ourselves to show that we can do it all that when we do drop the ball, our guilt is compounded.
I can’t say which of the above scenarios is the “easiest” but I can say this: it’s hard to find that work-life balance with so many demands from others and ourselves placed on us each day. And while I don’t think life is ever fully “balanced” I do believe we can do better by removing distractions. At least I found out I could.
Here are just a few work-life tips that prevented me from burning out completely – both as a single working woman and now a working mom.
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6 Work-Life Balance Tips to Avoid Burnout
1. I Had to Realize I Couldn’t “Have It All”
Yes, I was working. Yes, I was able to stay home with my baby. But that doesn’t mean I could keep all my balls in the air at all times. The house wasn’t as clean as I wanted. My husband and I spent little time together, and I had to put all of my personal interests on the back-burner.
There are no days we can be a perfect mom, co-worker, and wife all at once. As much as we’d like to believe it or read books about “leaning” in, we can’t have it all. At least not all at once.
And that’s OK. Balance is sometimes swaying in one direction too much, and then back the other way again. The sooner I realized I wasn’t supposed to do everything to fit society’s standards, the more peace I felt.
2. Prioritize A Few Things
When I first started back at work at six weeks I was still, quite frankly, recovering from birth. Six weeks is the bare minimum to start feeling physically normal again, even more so if you have a C-section. And that’s just the physical recovery.
Emotionally this is sometimes the start of when things can get really rocky. The new baby feeling has worn off, hormones are starting to leave your body causing a rollercoaster of emotions, and lack of sleep is starting to take a major toll on you.
This is when I started working again. BecauseI was feeling physically better, I began to notice the obvious tornado that must have hit my house. For a few days, I attempted to balance being a new mom with my job and get the house in order. Not surprisingly I crashed and burned.
I was forced to learn I had to prioritize a few things…and forget the rest.
While I had to become a mom to learn this lesson, it’s one I wished I had implemented as a working woman without a family. It sure would have relieved a lot of stress.
3.) Pick THREE Things To Get Done Each Day
This is when I started my “3 items” rule. I would pick just three absolute necessities to get done that day. To start my list looked like this:
- Take care of myself
- Take care of my baby
- Get work for my job done
I had to let chores go, my blog go, and put everything else on the back burner until I could get a handle on life.
As these tasks became more manageable I made them just part of my routine and would slowly add in new goals as long as I felt comfortable. And not a minute before. It doesn’t matter if we’re married or single, with kids or not when we pack our day too full we’re setting ourselves up for failure. .
Sometimes it’s OK if things don’t get done as soon as we want (this is separate from our job where certain tasks are expected, though!). Delayed gratification, and even delayed success, can sometimes have some unexpected benefits. Sometimes it not only preserves your insanity, but things can turn our better with a little more time.
Also, here is a look at my self-care routine.
4.) Clear the Clutter, Physically and Mentally
After I started to get a handle on “life” I was finally able to address messes that had mounted up in my house. I know people say, “Oh, it’s OK. Let it go.” And that is wise advice. There will ALWAYS be more messes to clean up until, well, forever.
But at the same time clutter only adds to my stress. Maybe you can relate.
I think best and feel more relaxed when things are orderly and clean in my home, or as best as they can be. I don’t have to think about the dirty dishes in the sink because they are already done. Or I can better focus on relaxing when I am not thinking about how I have to vacuum the floors. I think this might just be one of the curses of being a wife and mom (thanks, Eve!)
Our minds are constantly in overdrive as to what we have to get done. I am a big believer in letting our idea of a “perfect” home go while doing what we can to NOT create more stress for ourselves than necessary.
About four times a year I like to go through my home and declutter – room by room. Why store stuff I don’t need or want? First off, it takes up precious energy on my end to care for it and second, I could donate it to someone else who has an actual need for it.
Besides physical clutter, we also create a lot of mental clutter. Constant running to-do-lists in our minds never allow us to fully relax. My recommendation here is to keep lists. Sometimes just writing down what we need to do allows us to clear it from our minds. I often write my next day’s to-do list right before bed for this very reason.
5.) Streamline Everything
I am a huge fan of streamlining anything I can from meals to my wardrobe to my cleaning routine. The more routines we can create the less we have to devote time to thinking about how we can accomplish them. This is why people plan out their meals for the week.
In Emily Ley’s book A Simplified Life she even recommends you have the same meals on the same day each week. Tuesdays are for Tacos, Fridays pizza. You can change up the recipes (or even the meals themselves) if you get sick of them but streamlining meal planning takes a huge load off our mental plate.
I admit that I still have a long way to go in this department but I do love creating structure and routine in my days. Some days my routine goes out the window if my baby is extra fussy or I get an unexpected project at work. But that’s OK. Like I said before, that’s life. But when we’re able routines are able to provide a lot of stability in our otherwise chaotic days.
Here are a few of my daily and weekly routines:
And although not a routine, creating things like capsule wardrobes can also help reduce your decision making and stress in any given day.
6.) Build in Periods of Rest
“Rest when the baby rests” is a popular piece of advice these days. It’s good advice, but not always practical. For me, whenever my baby finally DID sleep that was my only time to actually eat something, pump milk or shower. As soon as I finished these necessities she would often awake. How was I supposed to sleep AND eat?
If you CAN rest when your baby rests – do it. Or maybe you don’t even have kids yet but still feel like there is no time to rest in your day. Find it, or better yet, schedule it.
It’s kind of like budgeting. If you don’t budget you savings, you could still potentially spend all your money away. The same is with rest. We need to schedule it into our day to make sure it happens. Rest doesn’t always have to be sleeping either. Rest can also include resting your mind. If you can find 15 minutes in your day to do your devotions, read a chapter in a book, take a bath, or go for a walk it will do you a world of good.
Similarly, make sure your “rest” time doesn’t include scrolling through social media. If anything, this can cause more UNREST. I know for me it does. A true rest period will be social media and phone free.
7.) Create “I Did” Lists instead of “To-Do” Lists
Lastly, it can be SO hard to feel like we accomplished anything in a day when we didn’t finish that project at work, we STILL haven’t folded the laundry, and we’re not sure we actually ate lunch. While I love my to-do lists, lately I’ve been creating “I did” lists at the end of the day to remind myself all I have accomplished.
- ate three healthy meals
- fed my baby
- took care of the cat
- sent out birthday cards
- did my devotions
- rested for 15 minutes
- cleaned the countertops
No accomplishment is too small to include. Go ahead and make your list and feel good about what you did get done that day. If all you did was take care of you and your baby, well that’s an accomplishment in itself, too.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go implement my own advice.