Today, I’m delighted to be joined by Emily Seamone, founder of Women, Work, and Life, who coaches women and mothers to better integration of work, family, and life. I asked Emily to share with new working mamas her thoughts on the infamous “work-life balance” conundrum. As she says, let’s call it life balance instead.
As a new mom returning to work after a maternity leave—whether it has been a few weeks or several months–you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed about this next step. You may wonder, “How the heck am I going to balance it all?”
Is Work-Life Balance Possible?
First, let’s talk about the notion of work-life balance. Many people equate this phrase with having a perfect life in which the two sides (work vs. life) operate harmoniously without any glitches. Deep down we know this ideal doesn’t exist, but nonetheless mothers feel the societal pressure to strive for this concept.
Instead, I prefer the term “life balance,” as I believe it more aptly conveys that life doesn’t just consist of two sides but rather so much more: we have relationships, leisure activities, hobbies, spirituality, and so on. The “right” mixture is unique to each one of us. Furthermore, life balance is not all about how much time we spend on work or our personal lives, but rather what exists in our lives as well as our mindset. What is the complete constellation of activities and roles that we play? And do they align with what is most important to us?
Give Yourself Time
You may be thinking, “I just had a baby, so there is no way I can have this ‘life balance’ thing.” Yes, you absolutely need to give yourself time to adjust to this significant life change, especially as you create a new routine to fit in your baby, work, yourself, and other parts of life.
In addition, although you are overjoyed with your newest member of your family, you may find yourself feeling a bit nostalgic about your pre-baby life. Perhaps you enjoyed eating out with friends, reading books, going on dates with your partner, pursuing a passion project or hobby, and exercising. Where did it all go?
The good news is that you will do these things again. I love this description of how our lives change after having a baby, which is from the fantastic documentary Having It All: When we have a child, our life “explodes into pieces,” and our many selves (or aspects of our lives) scatter. Eventually we begin to put the pieces of our lives back together, like a puzzle, and as we do we re-prioritize what is most important, discarding some areas that no longer fit. We literally must reconstruct our entire lives, figuring out a new life balance that feels right to us.
Baby Steps for More Life Balance
You may need more time before you completely reassemble your life, although there are a few steps you can take right now. Just remember to go slowly, be gentle, and adopt realistic expectations. You can:
- Include moments of self-care. This area is often the first to go, but keep in mind that everyone in the family benefits when mom is relaxed and content. Lori has great articles on her blog about micro self-care and meditation. What else is relaxing to you?
- Incorporate one or two 15-minute goals, which entail engaging in a desired activity for a mere 15 minutes a day. Make a list of the activities that you enjoy and would like to pursue: you could read a book for 15 minutes, knit, write, or paint a picture. Although it doesn’t seem like much, 15 minutes each day adds up to 7.5 hours in one month!
- Explore mindfulness, which is “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” Practice really being in the moment when you are with your baby, at work, or alone. You might also incorporate savoring, which is appreciating something in the moment, and even keep a gratitude journal. Our mindset contributes immensely to our experience of life balance.
It’s a Journey
No matter what you pursue in your life, remember that there is not one perfect solution to life balance. It takes time to figure out what works for you, and most likely this will change over the years as your child grows. Be true to yourself, block out external pressures, and remember…this is a journey! For more thoughts on life balance, be sure to visit my new blog series, 52 Weeks to Better Life Balance.
Emily Seamone is a career and work-life coach who specializes in helping women with changing careers for better work-life integration, returning to the workplace after a break, finding more flexible careers, and creating better balance in their lives overall. Emily has a career and work-life coaching practice at www.womenworklife.com and works in higher education career services.
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