If the title of this post made you laugh at the thought of having it all, then you and I are in the same boat! Making sure you have time to do what you want to do career wise, do all the million things moms do, and have time to get coffee or dinner with your girl friends is a little crazy! You might be thinking, it can’t be done. I am here to tell you, it can be done, and for most people’s sanity, it has to be done.
My very first full time teaching job was at a charter high school. This school is amazing for the kids who go there! The teachers not only teach, but have mentor groups (about 20 kids), check in with each kid in their group for at least 10 min a week, and make tons of parent phone calls home. This is all done with the end goal of a 4 year college acceptance for each and every kid at the school! Just reading that you might be thinking, wow that is a lot of work for the teachers. And you are correct, but that’s not all! The school was in a low income area, where most parents had not gone to college themselves. The kids sometimes didn’t want to be there, because, well, it’s high school, and due to the high level of work the teachers expected of them. As a first year teacher I was also trying to find my style and voice as a leader (while looking super young and getting mistaken for a student on a regular basis, and only being 6 years out of high school myself). I would show up at school at 7:30 (we started at 9), and leave around 5:30. This was a crazy schedule! I would also do 80% of lesson planning, and IEP writing outside of school. I had no social life! I knew I needed a change!
How did I change? No, I didn’t change jobs (eventually I did, but after a few years). I made myself eat lunch with other teachers twice a week. Just that small change of actually eating with other adults made a huge difference. Sometimes we would just talk about students, but at least I wasn’t isolated in my classroom all day. This small change left me thinking about doing other changes. So here are the things that I still make sure I do for a good work/life balance.
- Spend at least 3 lunches a week with other adults, and not working.
- This might not seem like much, but just three lunches a week made me feel like a real person! Yes, most of the time we talked about students. Yes, sometimes I was the only one in the lunch room. However, it was a break from kids and a break from working during my lunch. While it might mean staying an extra 30 min after school, those breaks helped to make me a more effective teacher, and more productive with my prep time!
- Go out or have a phone date with friends (not work friends) at least once a week
- My first teaching job had an environment where teachers were expected to be outside of work friends as well as colleagues. This is not the healthiest idea. Having just a phone date with a friend who does not work with you, or live with you can make all the difference in how you mentally feel. They are able to take you out of your bubble for a little bit, or offer advise on how to deal with issues in your bubble. Now that I have a baby, I also feel this is needed with people who do not have a baby so I can still feel like a human! Having interactions with other baby moms is also needed now though!
- Workout 4 times a week
- Ok, this one does require a little more time from you. However, to quote Legally Blonde “Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands!” (or something like that!). When you work out you are giving yourself more energy! You are also turning the stress of all the stuff you are juggling into muscle. While being a working mom/wife takes a lot of mental strength, it also takes a lot of physical strength. Now how to find the time is a little tricky. Some people I know get up an hour early, others go for walks or runs with their kids (in strollers), or you could stay up an hour later. It all depends on you. This also does not have to be everyday! Just 4 times a week will make a huge difference in your mood, health, and ability to finish your to-do list. I know I only have a 3 month old, but I try to work out either holding her as extra weight (very carefully!!), or I put her on a blanket and she loves watching mama be silly and jump all over. It is hard to find time, but it is so worth it!
- Date night at least once every other week
- This one I know is really great for mental health and balance, but it is so hard to do! So hard in fact, that my husband and I have not gone on a date in almost 5 months. We do have an almost 4 month old, but still that is a month before her that we didn’t go out! Having a night at least every other week where you just get to be adults and talk and rediscover why you feel in love in the first place is so important! If you are like most people, and feel you married your best friend, why wouldn’t you want to spend time with them? Your partner is a great sounding board for your stress, or will know how to get you out of your funk, or if everything is fine is just a good person to be around. If money is tight, go for a hike together, or go window shopping at a fancy store. Making time for your significant other is a huge part of a balanced life. If your relationship is solid, you will be a better parent, you will be able to focus on work with a clear head, and you will be a happier person in general.
- Be okay with a messy house
- This one is really hard for some people. It is okay to have a few dishes in the sink, and some stuff laying around the house. In order to feel like you have some balance, set 3 things in your mind that NEED to be clean. Then, if anything else is dirty, it’s okay to leave it for a few days. Now, if the dog throws up, that’s not okay to leave, but if there are leaves near the front door; leave it. My 3 things are floors, dishes, and baby’s room. Everything else can be left for a few days. I married a neat freak, and I am so not neat it drives him crazy! But, I always say if he wants to clean up, he is welcome to. Having just 3 things that I know need to be clean really helps me mentally know it’s okay to go to bed when I’m tired and my sewing stuff is still all over the living room.
- Ask for help with daily chores (cooking, dishes, laundry, etc)
- My husband is amazing, he will do almost any household chore! I do need to ask him to do it, or leave it until it gets so bad he can’t stand it. Anytime I get overwhelmed, he tells me, just ask me to do it. That is a huge lesson I have had to learn, ask for help! It does not make me less of a wife! Asking for help means the workload is more balanced, and I don’t feel like I’m somehow becoming a 1950s housewife. Depending on how your relationship is, maybe having a ‘family meeting’ is how you can divide chores up, or maybe its a ‘honey-do’ list you leave on the fridge. It doesn’t matter how you ask, just ASK for the help. Also, if you don’t ask, you can’t get mad at your family for not reading your mind!
- Give 4 hugs a day!
- I don’t know of any research behind this one except that we are social creatures. There is a song I learned in elementary school, “4 Hugs and Day” by Charlotte Dimond, that states over and over again that we need 4 hugs a day. I have noticed in my own life, if I give/get 4 hugs in a day, I do feel happier. When I don’t do this, I notice I am more likely to have a ‘pity party for one’ about my issues and stress. I know there are hormones released whenever you get a hug, these hormones can help you relax. I’m not sure if you really need 4 hugs day, but its a catchy song and you’ll start wanting to do more hugging! In case you need an ear worm, here is a youtube video of the song: https://youtu.be/lI7JzSW7PJ0
That’s it! I hope these tips help you to feel like you have more of a balance in your life!