Family has always been important to me, but I’ve never been good at work-life balance. I’ve always been one to squeeze in every possible opportunity – joining musicals and clubs in school, double-majoring and minoring in college while joining and managing performance ensembles, working several jobs while in grad school and finally, immediately diving head-first into the all-consuming film industry. But after beginning to date my husband I realized I wanted to be able to truly focus on us during our time together. The birth of our son completed my shift in perspective and priority.
While I still absolutely love working my dream job writing music for television and film, I’m learning how to balance my new family with my natural inclination to do everything. My son is nearly 13 months old now, and I’ve been working since he was 13 weeks old. My schedule is modified from my pre-mom days so that my husband and I can stay his primary caretakers. It’s a work in progress and not every day is perfect, but here are a few techniques I’m using to stay balanced in my career while maximizing time with my family.
1) CUSTOMIZE YOUR WORK SCHEDULE
This may be easier said than done, but talk to your boss – perhaps you can work from home for part of the day, or part of the week. Or perhaps you can switch your hours to evenings, or work longer shifts on fewer days. Figure out what your ideal situation is, and start taking steps toward making that possible. I was able to work with my boss to create an alternate schedule where I’m only at the studio for a few hours a day on weekdays, but can do work from home during naps or when my son is asleep. I make sure to stay focused and accomplish as much as possible during my work hours, and then I can focus on my son during my hours with him.
2) FIND ROLE MODELS
Find examples of people who have a similar childcare setup or work schedule to what you’d like to do. They might not live identical lives to yours, but seeing that it is possible to do what you want to do makes it so much easier to take the steps to make it happen. A bonus: if you find someone in this category with awesome older or adult children, you can reassure yourself that your plan will in fact be a great thing for the long-term happiness of your family!
3) INCORPORATE SELF-CARE WITH FAMILY TIME
Find a mind-clearing practice you can do with your family. Meditation is great, but when you don’t feel like you have any time or space, it’s hard to find the time and space (or especially in my case, the ability to do it without falling asleep). Since my little guy is still so small, I go on a short hike with the baby and dogs within walking distance of my house. He gets to see the sights, the dogs get to do their business, and I get to be in nature and away from any reminders of what work needs to be done. We all stop and take a few deep breaths at my favorite part of the hike, a tradition that can absolutely carry into when my son is able to walk. These morning walks feel like self-care to me and I think my son and dogs feel like they’re being cared for in the process, too. A win all around!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and outsource things that are a lower priority to you. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to let go of doing something the way I want it done. I’m pretty particular about dishwashing so it’s usually my chore, but if my husband is willing to do the dishes one night, that frees up time for me to do something I prioritize. I have never been good at finding time to deep-clean, so we have a cleaning lady twice a month who can take care of the basics. It took some effort initially to squeeze that into our budget, but the value she provides is beyond worth the cost. It took me a while to wrap my head around paying for help cleaning as this wasn’t my experience growing up at all, but now I consider this one of our most valuable monthly expenses. Distributing household responsibility and taking some of the pressure off my shoulders frees up my mind and ability to accomplish other work – which ultimately creates a net positive in the budget.
5) STOP POSTPONING YOUR BASIC NEEDS
Shower, brush your teeth, wash your face and for the love of God, pee when you have to pee. Chances are, everyone else in your family does all of these things without thinking about it. You, too, are worthy of your attention.