If you’ve given up trying to achieve work-life balance, I hope you’ll read this article and begin to consider the possibility that better life balance IS possible for you, even while your kids are young. I know you’re a busy Mom who feels stretched to the max, but even in this hectic season of your life, it’s possible for you to take care of your own needs. Really! I have some simple tips that will get you started on your journey.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I dreaded getting advice on parenting. “Helpful” Moms enjoyed telling me terrifying ways that my life would change. They offered (unsolicited) advice on everything from buying diapers to car seat safety. Yet none of them told me what I needed to know most: how to take care of myself while balancing a baby, husband, full-time job, and other commitments. Within a few months, I was floundering and way out of balance. I was depressed, exhausted, and constantly sick.
It’s been a decade since my first child was born, and in all that time I’ve rarely met a Mom who feels relaxed and “balanced.” Most Moms believe that work-life balance is a myth. With utmost respect to every “expert” who has confidently declared that “Work-Life Balance is a myth” because they personally couldn’t achieve it, I disagree. I’ve made it my life’s mission to challenge this myth.
If work-life balance is a myth, then every working Mom on our planet is doomed. We’ll never feel calm and peaceful. We’ll always feel like at least one important part of our life is falling through the cracks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live my life feeling like there’s no possibility of having a happy, balanced life.
There are so many women who struggle every day, feeling tired, worn out, and hopeless about a solution. Life shouldn’t be this way! There are solutions that really work (and aren’t hard!) that will help get even the busiest of Moms more in balance.
First, let’s talk about what it means to have work-life balance.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Although there are many definitions of work-life balance, here’s how I define it.
Life-balance is when you feel relatively satisfied with all parts of your life. One (or more) areas of your life isn’t regularly suffering because you are overly focused on another area.
This doesn’t mean that life is perfect! Or that every day you will feel balanced and zen. Trust me, as Mom, you will always have days where you need to focus more on one aspect of your life than another. Instead, Life-balance is when you feel that overall, things are under control. Most areas of your life get the attention needed so that they are doing well.
To put it simply: Most days you are able to take care of yourself, your house, your family, and all of your other responsibilities without feeling overly frazzled (or cranky!)
How to Create Balance
We all want balance but it seems like yet another item on our to-do list. How can we possibly work towards it when we’re exhausted and already on our last nerve (or beyond it!).
The key is to keep it simple.
Don’t give yourself yet another project for your to-do list. It’s already long enough. Instead, follow these three steps and you’ll start noticing a huge difference:
Step 1: Attitudes + Beliefs
The first step to developing work-life balance is to re-evaluate your attitudes and beliefs. Start questioning EVERYTHING that you currently believe.
This step is crucial because we are often our own biggest obstacles. We have beliefs that make us work much harder than we need to, or make us give up entirely.
Everyone’s limiting beliefs are different, but the truth is that these beliefs are causing the same result: stress, too much work, and unhappiness. These beliefs are literally killing our joy.
One of my limiting beliefs was that I needed to make a fresh, delicious vegetarian dinner every night. Crazy, I know! I went years without questioning this belief. I would exhaust myself after work by making elaborate meals. Once I questioned this belief, it literally opened up hours in my week. Truthfully, this change didn’t shift overnight. However, I slowly came up with strategies to help reduce my time in the kitchen. For example, I decided that one night a week (my hardest day) we’d order pizza. This made everyone very happy and saved me tons of work! I also started doubling and freezing recipes so that when I came home from work, I could pop something into the oven to reheat.
Once you start questioning your beliefs and start tweaking things in your life, you’ll see big results, which will make you continue to question more beliefs and make even more improvements. It’s a wonderful domino effect. The key is to start disbelieving things that you KNOW are true!
In the comments, let me know some beliefs that you have that may not serve you. Let’s all learn from each other!
Step 2: Habits
The next step in developing work-life balance is to develop great habits!
When I was a new Mom, I decided that I either needed a full-time Housekeeper or a Superpower to keep things under control. I didn’t have money for the Housekeeper so I went with the more practical solution of developing a Superpower.
No, I didn’t become a SuperMom (yuck! SuperMoms have no balance in their lives!). Instead, I harnessed the only Superpower I had in my toolbox: habits.
Okay, I know habits don’t sound like a Superpower. Habits seem like simple and dull routines that you do every day. However, they are more powerful than you may realize. They can make your life flow easily and smoothly in beautiful ways. They also keep you from struggling with decisions so life can operate on cruise control. And who doesn’t want that? Without even thinking about it, habits will have you cleaning your house, eating healthy foods, and exercising. It’s like magic!
It sounds too good to be true, right? I have amazing news for you — it’s the secret hack behind every successful person. It’s not sexy. It takes time to create. But once you develop the habits you need, you’re gold.
The reason why habits work so well is that we do things out of habits constantly, more than we even realize. According to Charles Duhigg, most people operate on habits about 40-45% of the time. That’s crazy, right? Almost every waking minute we’re doing something simply because that’s how we’ve always done it. Although that sounds boring and predictable, our habits help us function. Can you imagine how stressful life would be if every time we had to do something, we had to figure out how to do it from scratch? We’d be tired before we finished brushing our teeth.
Habits can help us achieve balance by taking the struggle out of life. We can create habits for all the things that we currently struggle with. Is your kitchen messy? Create a habit of cleaning it! Forget to exercise? Create a walking habit!
How to Create Habits
To get started with creating habits, I recommend starting with one really easy habit. Stick with it for a few months until you do it without even thinking about it. For example, if you want to start a walking habit, you may want to pick a time (lunchtime) and a duration (5 minutes, 3 times a week). After about 6 weeks, you notice that you’ve walked for at least 5 minutes almost every day and it was easy. At this point, you can change your habit to make it a little harder (maybe walk for 10 minutes, 3 times a week.) As you continue, you’ll notice it gets easier and easier to walk at lunchtime. Pretty soon, if you miss a day, you feel “off.” This is a sign that you’ve incorporated the habit into your life!
Developing habits effectively is usually a slow process. The biggest mistake you can make is to rush it. Take your time and be patient. Start slowly, with only one habit. Once you’ve created and ingrained it in your life, it will literally change your life for the better and make things so much easier.
For help on forming habits, register for my free email class, “How to Create Habits that Actually Stick!” The class walks you through how to create a habit. It also comes with a stunning workbook. You won’t believe it’s free.
Step Three: Self Care
The final part of the formula is self-care. You need to nurture yourself so that you have energy and joy to give to your family. Without self-nurture, there’s no way you can feel balanced.
Chances are that you already know that self-care is important but you still ignore it because you don’t want to deal with “one more thing.” Below, I’m going to give you a brutally honest list of just a few things that may happen when you neglect yourself.
When you Neglect Yourself:
1) Your family gets used to it. If you put yourself last, your family learns to do the same. All the things you were doing for them to be “nice” have now become your job. This is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s so true, right?
2) You lack joy. Without self-care, you get tired and upset more easily. Often your mood suffers and you feel unhappy and perhaps even depressed. How can you feel joy when you’re depleted and empty?
3) Your family suffers. Your partner and children don’t have the “best” you. They have the tired and cranky version of you. ‘nuff said…
4) You’ve created a cycle of self-neglect. After years (or decades!) of self-neglect, you’ve created a cycle where even small bits of self-care make you feel guilty. The longer you go without self-care, the harder it seems to ever achieve it again.
This list is a bit depressing, but I hope it shows you the importance of self-care in your life. Without it, your whole life suffers and you may lose your joy and zest for life, not to mention your health.
My friend, please know that it is possible to have more self-care in your life! Hint: I’ve already shown you how to do it!! Creating self-care is a combination of Steps 1 and 2. First, identify your limiting beliefs that are keeping you stuck. Start kicking those beliefs to the wayside and give yourself back your power!
Next, start incorporating small self-care habits into your life, just a little at a time. The cool thing about habits is that once you form them, they become effortless and natural, not yet another thing on your to-do list. Create habits that will help you take care of yourself and all parts of your life. For everyone, this will be different. It may be going to bed earlier, drinking more water, or relaxing before bed. Whatever habit you work on, know that you are doing something wonderful and effective to change your life.
You Can Have Better Work-Life Balance!
I hope you are now feeling empowered and more hopeful. Better balance really is possible. It doesn’t have to be a huge overwhelming goal. Make some small shifts in your limiting beliefs, add a new habit, and start giving yourself the self-care you deserve. With a few tweaks, your whole life will change.
Let me know in the comments some limiting beliefs that you’ve discovered.
With lots of love,