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How to Have a Work-Life Balance for the Busy Mom’s Super Chaotic Life

How to have a work-life balance

Do you ever wonder if “work-life balance” is for real people or is it just hype, so an unruffled human sitting at the computer can explain how it’s done? You tell yourself that it’s impossible to get it right when you don’t have a life because all you do is work. Then go home to feed the family, settle temper tantrums, review homework, school notes, catch up on emails, pay bills, clean up the dishes, and stumble into bed. But first there are bedtime stories, diapers, requests that need to be answered, the yoga class you missed, again, that stinkin business proposal, packing up kiddie lunches for the next day and a partner who is doing their best to share. 

Once upon a time, your boundaries may have been clearer. That was then. Right now, you’re struggling, just to get through the day. Your work and personal life may be at war with each other, invading each other‘s borders.

The entanglements of life have you hanging by a thread. The other side of chaos is knowing that change is possible. There are honest and helpful solutions that are life changing. Click To Tweet

You’ll need to do things differently though, so that you can balance and enjoy the life you want.

Ready to consider new ideas on how to have a work-life balance; for real…

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Is Work-Life Balance Possible?

The term work-life balance assumes that both parts are the same and that you can somehow divide your time equally between these two important elements in your life. In reality, this simply can’t be done. Regardless of whether you work from home, part-time, full-time, or have a flexible or rigid schedule. There is no perfect 50/50 split when it comes to work and life. 

At some points, a large chunk of your attention will have to be directed towards your work. While at other times, the majority of your focus will need to be on your family. That’s just how life works. There is no perfect balance. Sometimes sacrifices will need to be made in one area or the other. 

So, back to the question. Is a work-life balance possible? Yes, but not in the way you think. The goal is to find the balance point that works best for you, your career and your family. This will look different for everyone. And it will completely depend on your personal situation, home life and work expectations. 

But as a working mom, you probably feel some (or a lot of) guilt around this topic. When you’re working, you feel guilty for not spending precious time with your kids and when you’re with your kids, you’re thinking about all the work you need to get done. This is natural but can make it even harder to strike a work-life balance that’s best for you.

Let’s put away the guilt for now and come to terms with the fact that it’s hard to be a working mom. You’re not alone. But it’s time to find a compromise. A balance point. Alignment, if you will.

WishlistRealitySolution
I need a smooth morning routineThe baby is hungry and my toddler is having a meltdownThere’s only one of you. If your partner isn’t around to help, this might be a really good time to let your toddler watch a favorite video so you can feed the baby
Your child is sick and you need to stay home to take care of your babyYou have an urgent deadline to meet at work, a never-ending to-do list of errands to run and your other child needs to be picked up from school/taken to after-school activitiesTime to delegate and call your support network. Work from home today to meet that deadline. Give the high priority errands to your partner to do and ask another mom friend to pick-up/drop off your other kid(s)
An important project at work means phone calls and emails come through even at night or on the weekendsYou’re making dinner, listening to your partner talk about their day and then need to put the kids to bedSet your phone to silent when you get home, inform colleagues not to call you over the weekend unless it’s absolutely critical and give the project your all during the hours you are at work

The True Cost of Poor Work-Life Balance

How to have a work-life balance

Have you ever considered the true cost of having a poor work-life balance? According to Mayo Clinic, there are numerous negative consequences to having an unhealthy work-life balance:

  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Lower productivity.
  • Mistakes at work.
  • Poor physical health.
  • Mental health problems.
  • Loss of relationships.
  • Missed milestones
  • Burn out.

It’s easy to burn out when your life is not in balance. When you’re trying to do too many things at once, you’re sure to drop the ball somewhere. This could cause issues in your relationships or lead you to make mistakes at work and lose your job. And the unending stress will negatively impact both your physical and mental health. It’s just not worth it.

If you’re wondering how to have a work-life balance as a busy mom, read on. These tips might just help you improve your life so that your work and home lives can flourish:

Define What Balance Means to You

You already know that an even balance between work and life is unrealistic. At any point in time one responsibility will take up more of your life than the other. For example, if your child is sick, being a mom comes first and when you have an urgent deadline to meet, family time will be on the back burner. And that’s okay. That’s life. 

So when you want to know how to have a work-life balance, then you need to define what that means to you specifically. Don’t compare yourself to others. This definition should be personalized to you. Because it will vary from person to person based on your job responsibilities, your support system, your preferences and your priorities. The right equation for you, is not the right equation for your friend. 

Work-life balance for you could look like:

  • Unplugging phones, tablets and computers during dinner time.
  • Committing to pure family time on the weekends. 
  • Doing some work after the kids have gone to bed.
  • Reducing your work days or working flexible hours.
  • Arranging a babysitter to look after the kids in the afternoon.
  • Hiring someone to do household chores.

Each of these options (and any others) are acceptable if it helps to keep you from unraveling and prevents you from dropping the ball in an important area of your life.

Separate Work from Home

I know, I know, easier said than done, right? Especially if you work from home. But moms, trust me. This simple strategy works wonders. If you want the secret for how to have a work-life balance, this is it. 

It’s time to set some boundaries. For example, your rule might be no work when you’re with your kids and no doing things for the kids while you’re at work.This might not suit your situation entirely but it could be adapted to your lifestyle. Plus, it’s important to remember that there will always be times when the two areas overlap. That’s unavoidable. However, it’s essential that you create a distinction between these two aspects of your life in some way. 

Whether you decide to switch your phone on silent and not open your laptop when you’re at home with the kids or to run kids errands only during your lunch hour at work. Find a solution that serves you. If you work from home, then you could set strict work hours for yourself so that you’re not answering emails during dinner or the kids’ bedtime routine. 

Experiment with different options until you find a balance you like. Then make that a fine tuned non-negotiable rule for yourself.

Practice Being Present

How to have a work-life balance

As you can probably tell by now, a work-life balance is about being fully present on whatever task you’re busy with. 

If you’re putting the kids to bed, make that your entire focus. Guide them through their nightly routine, tuck them into bed, read them a book or sing a lullaby. Make sure you’re in the moment and give your kids your full attention instead of checking your voicemail. Similarly, when you’re at work, give it your all. Focusing on each task you need to do and completing them to the best of your ability will increase your productivity. While busy with work, don’t allow guilty thoughts of the kids or the heap of laundry at home distract you from what you need to do.

This practice of being present and fully committed to what you’re doing at each moment in time will really make life easier. You’ll get more work done with fewer mistakes and your family will appreciate your thoughtful attention. Best of all, when approaching work-life balance in this way, it will help you to alleviate some of that guilt that you feel as a working mom. 

Accept Help

It takes a village to raise children and manage a family. You can’t and absolutely shouldn’t be doing it all alone. You need to know when to ask for help. Or at the very least, accept the help that’s offered. 

Instead of splitting yourself into a million pieces trying to do and be everything for everyone, reach out. Asking or accepting help is nothing to feel ashamed about. It’s a sign of strength. Knowing when you need help indicates that you understand yourself, your needs, your priorities and your limits. 

Ask your partner to plan, shop for, and prepare meals for the week. (Even if that means pizza and fast food.) Older children could help with simple tasks around the house, such as sorting the laundry, washing the produce, setting the table or feeding the dog. If you need to hire a babysitter or send the kids to daycare so that you can do your work, that’s fine too. 

Once you realize how asking for and accepting help makes everything run more smoothly and reduces your exploding stress you’ll feel better about it in the future.

Work-Life Balance by the Numbers

The following numbers will prove why it’s essential to learn how to have a work-life balance.

According to Team Stage:

  • 66% of full-time employees in America do not have work-life balance.
  • 60% of employees blame their bosses for work-life imbalance.
  • An astonishing 84% of freelancers are happy with their lifestyle.
  • Spending more than 55 hours a week at work increases the risk of anxiety and depression.
  • 40% of employees use their devices for work outside business hours.
  • Salaried employees do 26% of the work outside working hours.
  • 35.5% of knowledge workers check their emails every 3 minutes.
  • A total of 40.1% of the workday is spent multitasking.

Some more fascinating stats:

  • People spend on average 13 years and 2 months at work – Dreams.
  • Americans spend less than 12 hours a week on leisure and personal care – OECD.
  • Corporate recruiters are masters at balancing work-life – Business Insider.
  • Gen Xers cherish work-life balance – The Ladders.
  • Mobile technology enables flexible working for 52.59% of employees – First Psychology.
  • A whopping 69% of employees want flexible work schedules – Family Living Today.

How to Have a Work-Life Balance Summary

Now that you have a better idea of how to have a work-life balance as a busy mom, it’s time to implement what you have learned. Follow these tips but also take  time for each aspect of your life, practice self care (you can’t pour from an empty cup), be kind to yourself, and just accept the imperfections of life.

You can’t have an even balance and you won’t have balance 100% of the time. No one can. But you can strive to find the perfect balance for you, your family, and your career. 

What is your best tip for how to have a work-life balance as a mom?

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Comments 16

  1. Wow, Ronni! There is so much here to unpack. The stats alone have my mind going. So much of what you wrote resonates with me- both personally and what I’ve observed with clients that are parents.

    Our kids are now adults, but one of the things that helped me tremendously in the child-raising years was being present. I didn’t think necessarily call it that then or recognize how mindfulness was playing a significant role. But what I did realize was that time was fleeting, they were growing up fast, and I had to figure out how to raise them, work, and build a business simultaneously. And do all the other things I was doing too.

    So for me, it was helpful to compartmentalize. When I was with the kids, I was with them 100%. When I was working, I was 100% focused on that. Even things like errands or grocery shopping were done with the kids. We made it fun- we’d sing in the grocery aisles as we shopped or drove in the car.

    While mindfulness didn’t make life less chaotic, it did help me appreciate and experience the moments more. I didn’t rush through. I savored.

    1. Linda,

      This resonates with so many of us. When our kids were small, we struggled to find the right balance and moms today are doing the same.
      Like you and I mentioned to Seana, I worked from home from the time my kids were small because I wanted to be there. I was lucky that I was able to do that. Often, it wasn’t so clear if I was working or mommying as the corners of the boundaries collided.
      When my older daughter was just two years old, I was offered an opportunity of a lifetime. But I knew if I took that opportunity I would never see my daughter and I wouldn’t see her grow up. Anytime I think back to that experience, all I have to do is look at my daughter and my grandchildren and know I made the absolute right decision for me.
      Many moms today are still struggling. I really hope this piece offers some guidance for them.

  2. I’ve heard it said that you can have it all, just not all at the same time. I’d like to think that could be true. Your strategy of working mindfully on what it is that you’re doing, focusing on family when you’re with family, work when you’re at work, sounds like the way to go. When we spread ourselves too thin, nothing gets done to our satisfaction and we feel like we’re spinning plates all day long. You included some fascinating and sobering stats in this post too!

    1. Lucy,

      All I can say is yes, yes yes to everything you just said.

      I never believed you could have it all. I always thought superwoman was somewhere living on the moon. You can have a beautiful life, you can have a lot but having it all at once isn’t realistic.

      What was important to me was wanting what I have (and had) rather then having everything.

  3. Very interesting statistics, Ronni. I followed some of your links and found it all fascinating. We are the US aren’t doing very well, are we?

    I think in many ways COVID provided a window into how work might be approached differently. Not everyone can work remotely, and not everyone wants to, but flexibility is definitely something people want. I totally see this, and this is one aspect of my job that I cherish. Giving people control over the “when” as long as they get the “what” completed seems like good business to me!

    1. Seana,
      I found those statistics eye-opening! It does make you stop and think. The reality is unbelievable.
      I wanted to work from home when my children were small. I wanted it to be my way of life because I always wanted to be there as much as I could. That was my rock. I built from there.
      I agree that the pandemic showed us alternatives on how to balance our lives. There’s always something new to learn if we’re ready to listen.

  4. Great tips, Ronni! I have been working from home since my daughter was born 20 years ago. And the tactics I had to put in place were very obscure, but it worked for me. 1. I had to work after 8 pm with clients. This was after the kids were asleep. 2. I had to have an office that held a beanbag chair so my kids could sleep on it while I worked. 3. I got a tablet so I could write posts while waiting for my daughter during her dance classes. It’s important to be creative when finding the time. We are moms, and we need to take care of ourselves, too, so taking the time to make ourselves feel productive is just as important as helping our children learn and grow.

    1. Sabrina,
      Wow! It’s amazing how much you put into practice way back when!
      You found your way and then followed what worked best for you and your family. That was the heart of my post.

  5. Hi Ronni -GREAT website and such a good idea toinvite folks to contribute. l accepted but probably won’t add anything. Just wanted you to know that look forward to geting more of YOUR tips!

    All best,

    Reigna

    1. Regina!

      It’s so great to hear from you! We go so far back. You’re my organizing agent extraordinaire and I think of you often!!
      I’m looking forward to staying in touch.

  6. This is always a timely topic and one that resonates with so many men and women, no matter what their life situation. I found myself thinking of my husband as I read this post. He struggles with this greatly and complains that he never really has time off. I gues you know I’ll be sharing these concepts with him.

    1. Sheri,
      How to terrific that your husband can share his feelings. Many men have a difficult time doing that.
      Knowing that you hear him and validate his feelings shows your support and how strong your marriage is.

  7. Such terrific information, Ronni. Defining boundaries and understanding what you value as a family is so important. It’s also important to ask for help. I love the chart you created with sample scenarios and solutions. No one needs to work and parent alone. You may not have a supportive partner but you have friends. Call on them when you need them and then reciprocate.

    My son and daughter-in-law are working these things out. They have true family time on weekends. They also play to their strengths. She doesn’t like to cook, he does. Her work day starts very early, so he handles the mornings. It is always a work in progress but I love how they are dividing and conquering. It’s a beautiful thing to admire from afar. Also, I should point out they both work from home and have 2 children. (clearly I’m a proud mama)

    1. Diane,

      You should be a proud mama! How wonderful that your children work as a team. That’s building a strong foundation for life.
      My daughter and son-in-law are the same. He does all the grocery shopping. No wonder, he’s great at it. He’s also fabulous with the kids.

  8. Really great post. I read an article recently that suggested we no longer call it work-life balance and that we really need to call it life balance. I like this idea since these days work and life are so messed together. I think focusing on your life instead of both work and life would show where improvements can be made.

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Janet. I love it and it makes so much sense. This is a tough area for so many people, especially women.

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