Normally I like to write about ways to be more productive, ideas for managing your household in an easier way, and encouragement for Moms. I don’t do that from a place of wanting you to strive for more, but rather from a place of trying to lighten your load. I write about ways to simplify motherhood so you can enjoy it more.
Today’s topic is a different take on how to simplify motherhood. It’s more about how to simplify our lives when they are out of balance. As you read this, think about how it may apply to you, to your husband, or another person close to you.
Parents today have so much pressure on them to ‘do it all’. Here is a little perspective for you on the price we pay when our lives are too focused on work, when we need better boundaries from our jobs. This is a story of what can happen when work takes over your life.
Once upon a time, I worked in a busy office…
People would come to me all throughout my day and tell me their problems. I was expected to drop everything and solve the problems or help them facilitate getting their problems solved. There was lots more to do though than just solving problems for other people. I had more work than I could reasonably do, and more people needing my time than made sense, but that didn’t stop me from trying to do it all. I had been taught that you work hard and give things your all, so that’s what I did.
When I left work each day, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I felt drained from the events of each workday. The drama. The conflict. The rushing. The striving.
I would shed my business suit when I got home but I couldn’t shake the events of each day. I didn’t know how to have mental boundaries from my work. After dinner, I would collapse into a chair and do the only thing I felt I had the energy for: watch TV. Then I would wake up the following day and do the whole thing over again.
When I showered, I would obsess about the problems at work. When I sat in Church on Sundays, I would worry about work.
When I dreamed, I would dream about work.
At family events, people would ask how I was. I would pull myself out of the swirl of thoughts about work and say, “busy”. After many years of this, one day it just became too much. I was done. I walked out.
Do you ever feel like that? Like your life revolves around work? Is having a personal life is a challenge to maintain, given the mental energy you devote to work?
Truth be told, I wasn’t really living my life at the time.
I lived for vacations. I lived for the weekend. We didn’t have any kids yet, and I think most of my personal time was spent watching TV. To be honest, looking back, it is a bit of a blur.
No one told me that feeling like that wasn’t normal. No one told me that I should take charge of creating a life that was healthier for me. I knew what I was doing wasn’t fun but I didn’t understand at the time how much of my life I was trading for my job.
Some people spend their whole lives like that.
If this is resonating with you as how you feel or how you see a family member feeling, perhaps this can be the wake-up call for you that I didn’t take. It may be time to make a change.
To look for something new.
If you are spending hours in therapy because of your job, it might not be the right job. If you can’t focus on your kids while you’re with them because of the mental energy taken by your job, it might not be the right job.
Let’s take control of our lives so we have room for life in each of our days! None of us know how long we have on this planet with the people we love.
It’s worth stepping back to create a more intentional life.
In my case, though my next job was a similar role, I was able to have a much better work-life balance. It was at a different company. My job function was partially the same, but in this role, things were structured differently. I didn’t have people walking up to me all day, so there were fewer interruptions. The culture was different so that meant less drama and fewer problems. Because of the differences, it was a healthier environment for me.
There are companies that allow a balanced lifestyle between work and home. Some companies encourage employees to have boundaries and to take regular vacations. There are companies and leaders out there that are supportive of employees’ needs to have a full life outside of work. Some companies know and understand that the more family-friendly they are with their employees, the more loyal those employees will be. Speaking as an HR professional, smart companies know that healthy, happy employees are better employees.
Even in positive environments, employees who want to keep boundaries between their personal life and their business need to be diligent in deciding on what those boundaries are and enforcing them. You have to decide what boundaries are right for you and the life you want. For example, I chose not to use my personal cell phone for business – or at least not to give out the number to leaders I worked with. This allowed me the peace of mind to know that I wouldn’t be getting work calls while I sat at dinner with my family.
I chose to draw a line in the sand and limit checking e-mail at night. Though it made me “look good” when I responded to emails at all hours, the price I paid of not having evenings free from thinking about work, was too high. It wasn’t worth it. I needed the mental space each night to decompress and focus on other things beyond work. For you, it may be different. Perhaps having time to leisurely check e-mails at night allows you more mental space during the day. Know what you need and follow that. Know also, that it may change from season to season, and that’s okay.
It’s okay to unplug from work when you go on vacation. It’s okay to set an out of office and stick to it. You will be a better employee if you come back into the office well-rested and refreshed.
When our family grew, I went to my leader with a proposal for working part-time. By that point in my life, I knew that it wasn’t always about the money. Working slightly fewer hours, for a little less money, was worth the extra time it gave me. Having time to keep order in my house and having more mental space to devote to my kids and husband, was more important at that point. I could still keep my career, but I needed a bit more breathing room. My priorities were changing and that was alright.
So many of us push through our days, not really taking a true break, planning to let our hair down and really live later in life.
We don’t take the trips now, pause to read the book, or take the afternoon off to enjoy a long weekend. There is no mental disconnect from work. We reason that there will be time later. I have to tell you – for my Mom, there wasn’t time later. She died at age 60. For my husband’s Dad – there wasn’t time later. He died at age 59. My husband’s uncle died just months before he planned to retire. For so many, there’s not that later that we think will come. For me, that helps this message really hit home.
We can have busy seasons, of course, but when a busy season stretches into a longer time, you may want to reexamine things. When work takes over your life, it’s time to make a change. When it comes to structuring our lives, don’t just push through the stress expecting there will be time later. There may not. We just don’t know.
Decide what boundaries you need. Decide what schedule you need to live a life that allows you to breathe. Then see how you might make that happen. It’s okay to ask at work about changing or tweaking your schedule. The worst they can say is no. Come forward with solutions and give them the chance to show you they appreciate what you do. Make the changes now so that you can have joyful moments on a regular basis. So you don’t always feel like you’re rushing to the next thing. So you can LIVE now, be present with your family, and make the most out of this time in your life. You deserve a life that is balanced and sustainable. We each only get one life. It’s worth designing one that allows time for what YOU deem important.
Comment below – have you found ways to have better boundaries between work and home? What works well for you?