Suggesting that you can achieve a sense of work/life balance as a working mum is going to ruffle some feathers because I know a lot of women are in a place where this concept alone sounds ridiculous and unattainable. So writing this blog feels bit taboo....
BUT, thankfully I'm a Life Coach specialising in balance, confidence and sustainable high performance, so... I'm going there. And if you're still reading then you're coming with me.
What better way to explore this topic than to share some of my own life lessons on work/life balance as a working mum.
This month marks my 3rd year of being a working mum.
So, in no particular order… Here are the 15 most important things I’ve learned about work/life balance in that time. FYI this was meant to be a top 10 kind of list but the insights just kept pouring out once I started! So lucky you, you get to glean 15 lessons from me, a fellow working mum (who happens to be a life coach).
15 things I've learnt about
work/life balance as a working mum
1. My work/life balance needs change from day to day, week to week.
Learning to be sensitive to what I need when and to adjust my focus accordingly has been a massive strength, as has accepting that balance doesn't mean equal measures of everything. I'm a sprinter by nature so balance for me is a fluctuation between intensity and chill. Even knowing that about myself is a huge step towards life/balance.
2. Plans aren’t as solid as they used to be (because kids are unpredictable…)
So don’t freak out when things change. Instead, get comfortable with having a plan B and rolling it out. You're not a failure, you're just learning to be far more flexible than you ever knew was possible. Ha. Kids are great for that kind of thing...
3. When I look after myself I’m better equipped to look after my family and my clients.
It’s that age old saying…. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Need I say more? Actually yes, I do need to say more, because for this lesson to apply you need to know how to fill your cup. That's something that requires a certain level of self-awareness to begin with and enough self respect to actually act on it.
4. Make hay while the sun shines.
When you have energy (which – shock horror – you won’t always have as a working mum…) then use it! Put it towards the things you want to gain the most traction on! Sometimes that’s fitness, sometimes it’s work and sometimes it’s building relationships.
5. Be productive when it works best for you.
Don’t try to mould your life into everyone else’s latest buzz strategies for productivity. By all means experiment, make observations and then apply those learnings to create your unique productivity strategies.
6. Looking after myself looks different on different days.
Some days it's a magnesium bath, walking the dogs without a toddler in tow (cooking without kids hanging off my legs? No... that'd be too ridiculous, right?!) and some days it's carving out that bonus uninterrupted 15mins to get important work tasks done. Don't limit yourself to what you think self care is, be open to whatever it is that you need at the time.
7. Connect with like minded colleagues.
Being self-employed can be isolating so creating a supportive work community with like minded professionals has helped me to keep inspired, to keep life in perspective and to keep growing through it all.
8. Make time for hobbies, the things that make you feel like you.
For me that’s basketball. I love the sport and I adore my team. It fills my cup in so many ways, health, friendship, personal goals - you get the picture. I'm a firm believer that everyone should have a hobby.
9. Be kind to yourself.
You can’t do everything and be everything to everyone in every moment. You just can’t. Be kind to yourself, expect normal human things from yourself like bad days, lack of motivation, limited availability and time. Be kind to yourself in the challenging times. Be your own best friend, the one that gives a pep talk, brings ice-cream when you're down and the one that pops the champagne cork when it's time to celebrate!
10. It’s ok to drop the ball… and not pick it back up.
Especially if it’s not important to you, drains you or doesn’t serve you anymore. Drop it, don't feel ashamed, just let it go. Even better, kick the thing and let it roll away! As a working mum it became clearer to me than ever that I no longer had time and energy for the extras in life that weighed me down and that's been a game changer.
11. Not all friendships survive the transition to working mum and that's ok.
I'm serious, not all of your relationships will survive the transition from being the available friend to being the career driven, ever needed working mum. And that’s 100% ok. Just make sure you hold on to the relationships that make your heart sing, that are mutually beneficial, where you support each other and build each other up. These are the people you need in your corner right now.
12. Make time for conversations with friends that aren’t interrupted by kids every two seconds.
It feels so good to be present and fully engaged in a conversation. You'll feel like your old self, but guess what - it's not your old self at all, it's still you. You just need to give that part of you time to shine!
13. Make time for your lover.
My husband Mark argues that this is way too far down the list (no particular order I reminded him!). Seriously though, a strong relationship with your number one means you’re stronger and better equipped to be a great mum and businesswoman, not to mention you're better equipped to be a strong and unified parenting team. I don't just mean sex by the way, I'm talking deep conversations, making new memories and having shared goals. All of it, all of the love in all of it's wondrous dimensions.
14. Sometimes you’re going to feel crushed by life but you are more resilient than you know.
You've done hard things before, overcome some of the shittest times and guess what? You've gotten back up and you know what else? You will do it again. You've got more bounce in you than you give yourself credit for.
15. Failure leads to success.
You have to mess up the balance to know what balance feels like. Does that make sense? Let it sink in... You need to get it wrong sometimes to get it right, and to deeply appreciate it when you do get it right.
ok, ok... here's a bonus one for you because I couldn't help it.... Also, in hindsight it really should be number one (but hey, this is in no particular order right?). Any who, here it is:
16. You need vision and curiosity.
Vision of what your ideal balance would be and curiosity to keep experimenting with different ways to achieve it. because.... you never arrive and work/life balance is a skill. Your work/life balance needs are always changing so the more you know what it is you want to move towards (vision) and the more you try different things to get to that place (curiosity) then the more likely you are to live in a state of balance over time as you develop the skills to do so.
eek!... Last one I promise!
17. Prioritise like your life depends on it.
Because it does. Your whole life is made up of what you prioritise day in and day out. Read that again. Each momentary priority tells the story of your life. You get to choose your priorities and you get to design your life. So really take the time to step back and work out what's important to you in life then go ahead and put the most important things first. Stop putting out fires, getting lost following fleeting shiny things and putting everyone else before yourself. Priorities what's important to YOU. That's where balance and fulfilment comes from.
Being a working mum can be an absolute strength, it can be the thing that sets you free. You, more than anyone, know the demands of life - sustaining your own and that of others. So you, more than anyone, need to learn to look after yourself and strive for what's important, not what you 'think' should be important or what others put on you. You never arrive at a place of balance, but it's a skill you can develop and it's so soooo worth it.
These were my top 15 (ok... 17) lessons of work/life balance as a working mum. I'd love to hear your experience! Send me an email and let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. If you want to talk about how Life Coaching with me will help you to increase your confidence, performance and work/life balance then get in touch to arrange an intro call with me. Whether it turns into coaching or is simply an empowering chat, I'd love to support you on your journey!
Author: Steph Edmunds
Certified Professional Life Coach
Steph Edmunds is SESC's incredibly passionate, experienced Certified Professional Life Coach based in Launceston, Tasmania, coaching clients across Australia and the world via Zoom to achieve balance, confidence and high performance.
How to stay in touch and stay inspired:
Contact me (Steph) directly to make a coaching inquiry