Work-Life Balance. We’ve all wished our up-early-suit-wearing side could live in harmony with our out-late-sweat-wearing side, and maybe for some lucky folks out there it does. But for many, responsibilities and commitments pile up so that this balance becomes more of an aspiration. And as I discovered this last year, when the Life side of the equation suddenly includes two, achieving any resemblance of balance can be as easy as catching a unicorn.
Having my baby has been one of the greatest blessings in my life, but I definitely didn’t grasp how completely it would change life till I was already in the midst of motherhood. I suddenly had to find a way to balance work-work, mommy-work, house-work, family-work, me-work…. And I’ll admit, I definitely did it all wrong. The good thing about getting it wrong though is you learn a few things about doing it right. And sometimes the best advice comes from the most unusual sources: the Disney songs and movies played for baby! So with that in mind, I offer you these 5 Disney-approved tips to achieving something that looks like Work-Mommy-Life Balance (and I’m guessing for Work-Daddy-Life Balance too):
Be “Practically Perfect In Every Way”
– Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins
Confession. I am a perfectionist. This can be an asset since one of the best ways to get ahead is to be better than the status quo. But perfectionism has a dark side – it can be both time consuming and anxiety inducing. Before baby, I managed it by putting in hours on the weekends or staying up late in order to make sure the house was spotless or a work project was beyond expectations. However, I quickly realized that this is no longer sustainable with a one-year-old, so I am learning to be practically perfect. It may mean my desk and house are just 90% tidy, but this is still an A, right? And I now have a bit less hair-pulling-out and more time for other things… like, you know, sleep or showers.
“The Only Thing Predictable About Life Is Its Unpredictability”
– Remy, Ratatouille
Kids are germy and stubborn (well at least my kid is). Which means on any given day my plans could be derailed by a case of hand, foot, and mouth (yeah, this is a real disease) or a serious tantrum. Mix in a city that shuts down at the sign of a snowflake and there goes my week. Finding Work-Life Balance before baby meant creating a schedule and sticking to it. And surprisingly this same strategy still works now but with a twist: schedule in some extra ‘unexpected’ time. I also try to have a Plan B (and C), and be more aware of possible monkey wrenches by listening to the traffic, weather, and news reports, and then getting ahead of them so they can’t cause as much havoc. And honestly, it helps to work at a place that allows some flexibility, with co-workers who have kids and also feel my pain!
“You’ve Got A Friend In Me”
– Toy Story
It’s going to happen. One side of the Work-Life teeter-totter will become overburdened with anything from a big new project to a family emergency. When this happens it’s ok to ask for help. I must admit, I find it hard to ask for help at times – maybe I’m just as stubborn as my kid – but more likely it’s because I don’t want to burden someone else with my issues. But Toy Story really got it right when they sing, “you’ve got troubles, and I’ve got ‘em too. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you”. Because our friends and family do WANT to help! And if asking for a hand isn’t your favorite thing, start small – having a friend sit with baby for 10 minutes while you shower can make a huge difference. Then you can always build up to bigger favors like: “can you watch my kid… overnight.”
“Look For The Bare Necessities”
– Baloo, The Jungle Book
Happy Hours. Networking Events. Sports Groups. Clubs. I risk sounding like my grandmother but there truly seems to be more things to get involved in than ever. Look at Meetup, there are probably 50 events tonight. While I wasn’t attending 50 events per evening, I would go to impromptu happy hours and seminars. I’ve found that when you’re a working mom you can’t expect to do it all. And to make this Work-Life equation compute, it’s necessary to prioritize the must-dos over the like-to-dos. This, however, doesn’t mean that fun ends when parenthood begins – it just might mean that an “impromptu Happy Hours” is actually planned a day or even weeks ahead.
“The Things That Make Me Different Are The Things That Make Me Me”
– Piglet, Winnie-The-Pooh
When figuring out your ‘bare necessities’, don’t forget about you. Which seems obvious but this was actually one of the hardest lessons I learned. In the early days of motherhood, I unconsciously or subconsciously decided that instead of trying to keep three balls up in the air – work, me, baby – that it was easier to just juggle two. Soon my days became nothing more than work and baby, work and baby. Then I woke up one morning and didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. I had lost a lot of things that made me me. I was no longer a runner, a fashionista, or a movie buff. In fact, the only thing I don’t think I lost was the baby weight. That’s when I decided that my baby deserved more than just a ‘good mom’ she deserved ME in all my musical singing, high-heel wearing glory. So I’ve put myself back in the equation and try to do little things just for me.
“Let it Go”
– Elsa, Frozen
Of course, no list could be complete without the Ice Queen’s anthem. It’s sound advice for so many aspects of life but for the purpose of my list, it means letting go of the idea you’ll get every part of this Work-Mommy-Life Balance right, every time. I’m learning that, like parenthood, this equation doesn’t have one right answer or even the same answer from day to day. You have to do the best you can and just let the inevitable little mistakes go.
Now go find your own balance and Hakuna Matata!