Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Work Life Balance Myth

One of my greatest take away's from last year was that the idea of a 'work/life balance' that I could create and maintain was a myth, and one should stop wasting time and energy pursuing.

As a stay at home Mum to three and the owner and maker of a creative business, I have keenly sought advice on the best way to prioritise my children while still fulfilling my creative passion. Every day I undertake to fill my children's cups with love and attention and meet their individual needs, while still finding time to do at least one thing for my business. I know that 'you can have it all, just not all at once', I know that the time will come when all three children are at school and I will have more time to dedicate to my business. But in the meantime, I know I spent much of last year trying to find a balance between mothering and working from home.

I kept looking for a routine that would fit everything in, so that my to-do lists would be repeatedly crossed off. I looked for ways to lessen the load, cut down on house work, find a little extra time for myself, but stay on top of everything and connect with my family. I beat myself up if I posted a sale a day later than I had said I would, if I ran out of apples for the Cohen's lunch box, if I brought biscuits instead of making them myself. Each week something would interrupt my well planned routine, and something would have to give. A child would fall ill. The baby wouldn't settle. There would be guests for dinner. It would rain for three days straight. And all my meticulous plans for getting everything done would be thrown in to the gentle chaos that is everyday life.

I'm flexible though. I'd handle it. But I would still try again the next week, only to be disappointed yet again. I tried to compartmetalise everything. Break my days up in to blocks of time and dedicate that time to that one task. But I just ended up frustrated at being constantly interrupted. Until I realised, creating a week to be continually repeated, in which everything ran like clock work and nothing changed, would be rather boring. One of my strengths is my flexibility, so I shouldn't be going against that. Those days when all the house work was done by nine AM were so satisfying because the next day it might be lunch time before I got a chance to sweep the floor or make the beds. Three days of rain and no dryer makes me appreciate it even more when I get to the bottom of the laundry basket (for that three minutes before someone throws more dirty clothes in to the hamper.) And getting a two year old and a baby to nap at the same time during the day so I can work, well, that's not always going to happen.

The lesson has been that there is no perfect balance. There is no one routine that I can set for each week and follow to the letter. Some weeks life takes over and family sways the balance, other weeks there is lots of work on, deadlines to be met, and I am spending more time at the bench. Sometimes I will run out of apples, there will be a huge pile of clothes or I will pack store brought biscuits in Cohen's lunch, and the world will keep turning, life will go on. And I will appreciate the fact that there is nothing else I would rather be doing. I chose this. I chose to be a stay at home Mum. I chose to start my own business rather than return to work for someone else. And both of these jobs are the most satisfying and challenging jobs I have ever had.

I understand now that I can't create a divide between myself as a Mother and myself as a maker, particularly as I work from home. They are entwined and I am passionate about both. Instead I have relaxed more about blurring the lines between both and allowing circumstances to determine where my energy is spent, rather than trying to engineer a time table to squeeze everything in. Just letting go of the idea that there is a way to get this perfect work/life balance has been incredibly freeing. We all need balance in our lives, but trying to achieve and maintain one version of that balance just isn't viable for a creative person like myself.

So here's to letting go of the myth and enjoying a creative and connected 2015.
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