I might even go so far as to say — weary. And the trouble is, I’ve brought about the weariness all on my own.
For the past several years, I have been a work-at-home, homeschooling mom. My work has evolved over those years, from blogging and social media to book launches and writing an eBook. There have been wonderful opportunities and amazing lessons learned. As my experience and reputation grew, so did the project and job offers. I will admit I have had trouble setting boundaries and saying no. These were good people who needed help or encouraged me to write. I love helping others. I enjoy being told I’m indispensable.
But in recent months, there have been new lessons. Lessons about what happens within your own four walls when your family falls behind your work on your list of priorities. Lessons about what happens to your already compromised health when you don’t make the time to take care of yourself. I am learning lessons about what happens to a life out of balance.
I didn’t see it coming, really. One day, I was waltzing through my days, feeling successful in all areas, and then the weariness came. It felt sudden, but it wasn’t. The lack of balance snuck up on me. It came from a place of integrity — a desire to succeed by working hard for the folks counting on me. It came from a desire to work as unto the Lord. It hit me like a lead balloon. The people for whom I should have been working the hardest, the ones who really counted on me – they were the ones I was pushing aside.
There’s an old saying: “An entrepreneur is someone who will work sixteen hours a day to keep from working eight hours for someone else.”
This has come to describe me. In my old life as a registered nurse, I loved my work and made a decent income, but my schedule was not my own. As my son grew older and needed me home more, working for myself, from our home, became a more attractive option. I knew I would need to work hard to build a solid reputation in a business that is booming with bloggers trying to get a foot in the door. I was willing to do the work. I just didn’t realize that I would sink into those 16-hour days.
I never intended for things to get so out of control, so out of balance.
I knew that many moms chose to work at home to have more time with their family and then find out they’re spending less and less time with the people who are most important to them. I was aware and on the look-out, but it happened to me anyway.
Are you a work-at-home-mom? My best advice to you is this:
Don’t let your work cost you your family.
So, how do you find a balance between work and other aspects of your life? I have been searching my own heart for answers to that question. And over the past several weeks, I have been making the needed sacrifices work-wise to get everything back into proper balance.
Here are a few lessons I have learned.
Make sure you have the support of your husband and children.
I’ve known a few moms who decided they wanted a work-at-home job to have a little extra spending money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but especially if your income isn’t necessary for the life of your family, be sure your husband is on board. You’re going to need his support at times. Whether your job is necessary for your family or not, be sure your husband and children understand that your job is your job. It’s how you help provide housing, food, clothes, or extras for the family. You’re not playing on Facebook or chatting with friends on the phone. Let them know your needs and expectations, while being sensitive to their requests. They need you, too.
Set office hours and stick to them.
This is hard, but to keep a proper balance between work and family you need to spend time with your family. I literally got to a place where I was logging on to my laptop as soon as I got up in the morning, and logging off just before bed. I don’t recommend that for anyone. Now I have set office hours (and only 4 hours per day). Decide what times you’ll be working and when you’ll stop. This may need to be adjusted for special projects, but for the most part, stick to your schedule. If you want to add a new project, make sure you have time within your set office hours to work on it. If you don’t, then my advice would be to either give up something else you wanted to do, or say no to the new project. If you keep adding things on, you’ll wake up one day realizing you’re working 15 hours a day. I speak from experience.
Try to have a space set up that is for work only.
If you can set up a home office away from the common areas of your home, do so. When you walk away, leave the work behind for the day. Don’t take your laptop into the family room and work. When you’re with your children and your spouse, give them your complete attention. Learn to be in the moment with them, not just a pair of eyes occasionally peeking over the top of the computer screen.
If you have a special project coming up that is taken extra time, explain it to your family in advance and ask for their help in letting you complete the project undisturbed. If you have older children, hire them to help care for the younger children (and pay them a fair wage) when you need extra time. Offer a reward for helping more with chores like cooking meals and laundry. Your children are less likely to resent your time away from them if they feel a part of what you are trying to accomplish. And please, make sure these special projects are few and far between, not your normal.
There’s nothing worse than having a few weeks to work on a project and then waiting until the last minute to get started. You’ll snap at your husband and children about how you have to get your work done, but the truth is it’s your fault for waiting so long.
Keeping your appointments with your husband and children is as important as the ones with your clients. If you say you’re going to take the kids on a field trip or to the movies, then do so. When you tell your husband you’re going to hire a babysitter and go out for date night, then follow through. They’ll understand an occasional emergency, but if you make a habit of cancelling on them, they’ll quickly learn they are not your main priority.
Finding balance between your family and your work must be your top priority. Always remember what’s most important, and make the choice to not get so bogged down in day-to-day details of your work that you can’t take time to enjoy life with your family. There is no job worth that.