With more and more parents working from home than ever before, I’ve heard so many moms stress about how difficult it is to maintain that work life balance they may have found before. It’s no question that working mothers have always had the difficult task of being the nurturer and CEO of their home plus whatever job responsibilities they held outside of the home but now that COVID-19 has changed the way America does professional work, moms are finding a new challenge. How do you “turn off” work when you’re working from home?
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What does “balance” really mean?
Like most things, the term work life balance’s definition is really in the eye of the beholder. In an article written by Nancy R. Lockwood, the author has several definitions for work life but the following definition is the one that comes to my mind when I’m talking about this,
Work/family: a term more frequently used in the past than today. The current trend is to use titles that include the phrase work/life, giving a broader work/life connotation or labeling referring to specific areas of support (e.g., quality of life, flexible work options, life balance, etc.)
Today’s workforce is different from that of our parents, and more and more adults are wanting to not slave away at work for hours on end. It’s a careful push and pull atmosphere. Now that our country is enduring a global pandemic, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are realizing how short life is. So how do we do this work from home thing AND still have time for our family?
8 Tips for maintaining a positive work life balance while working from home
Accept that there really isn’t such a thing as perfect work life balance.
In a perfect world you’ve be really productive at work, leave early and come home to be able to spend the rest of the day with your family. We don’t live in that world so more than anything, be realistic about what this work-life balance thing will look like. Some days may be more work focused while others will need to be centered on family. Be flexible and communicate. Christina Clem-Van Vooren, a project manager, describes, “working from home is like never leaving work. I have different responsibilities at each ‘job’ and when I am in the same environment for each job it is hard to separate the two. I feel like I am a better mom when I go into the office, then when I am home I am mom not mom who is still at work.
Schedule is everything.
Scheduling out your day is definitely one of the best kept secrets for a successful work life balance. This is even more important now that offices are readily available at all hours of the day. A friend of mine, Nikki Stephany, a Product Marketing Consultant says, “Some days are better than others but what I’ve found is to have a schedule that my boys know and follow. Keeping them aware of when I have meetings or am just working and giving them chores/ tasks (cleaning rooms, dishes, reading (!), etc) and also enlisting the help of neighbors. Our kids started a book club where they all sit on the patio at one house and each read to themselves for 30-60 min.
Ask for help.
Whether you get help from a nanny, the neighbors, family that lives nearby, getting help does not make you less of a mom. It doesn’t need to be full-time either, Missy Weiss, a finance manager, said, “My kids are 8 and 10 and just bored. I got a nanny a couple days a week to take them to do things and it has been a life saver.” You can even divvy up the household tasks – if you have an older child assign them one day a week where they’re responsible for dinner. Lessening your load will help you feel more balanced, rather than always feel like you need to catch up.
Unplug when the “workday” is over.
As a social media manager my work is easily accessible for me at all times. When 5pm hits, when I’m not playing catch-up and have scheduled posts out, I say peace out to social media and unplug. If there’s an emergency that I have to take care of my clients knows they can call me but other than that my motto is it can wait for tomorrow. New mom, Nadira Kharmai-Freed, a CX Product Owner Lead at Priority Health,
says, “As a new mom, non-gestational parent, who now works from home due to COVID, I am grateful for the time to spend with my son and help out my wife who is on maternity leave! I try to block my calendar off or let colleagues know when I have hard stops to go be with them.”
Make a to-do list….even if you hate them.
Prioritize – that’s really all a to-do list is and even though I hate making them, it really does help me stay productive while at home. I like to say that I have a to-do list in my brain but I tend to forget what’s on that to-do list. Along with creating a schedule, having a to-do list helps to prioritize what has to absolutely get done that day.
Be ready for interruptions.
Working from home brings a lot of interruptions and our brains just don’t function well that way. Harvard Business Review did a study on 202 professionals before COVID-19 happened on the effect of interruptions during the business day and how effectively a person can return to their prior task. In the article Sophie Leroy and Dr. Theresa M. Glom wrote, “We propose the ‘Ready-to-Resume Plan’ as a way to manage interruptions, prevent attention residue, and perform at full capacity on interrupting tasks. The premise of the plan is that if we can put the brain at ease about our ability to complete the interrupted task upon return, we would be able to switch our attention more effectively.” To read more about it click here. Kelly Whalen, a Digital Media Manager, suggests, “Noise cancelling headphones and post its or texts to say I’m on a call / aka leave me alone!”
Create a home office and use it that way
I don’t know how long my home office doubled as storage space but it was a long time. I’ve found that for me, being productive means actually using the space I’ve created as an office. If you don’t have room for a spare room to be turned into an office, designate a space that is your office space. Try to only use it when you’re working; it helps with staying on task when you’re actually supposed to be working.
The Pinterest perfect Mom does not exist.
When our moms were raising us the ideal mother was June Cleaver. Who is that ideal mom now? I’d venture to say she’s the Pinterest perfect mom – the one whose house is white, with clean lines everywhere, organized to the nth degree. She’s unattainable and believe me, you’re doing a darn fine job.
Do you have any tips for how to find that work-life balance we’re all striving for?