Hi Tiny Spark Community, it’s wonderful to be able to share with you a little about how I balance parenting, work and the rest of life. I’m a 45 year old married professor with a son who is 11 and three older step-children. For the last six years I’ve managed to maintain really clear boundaries between work and home life. I wouldn’t so much say that I ‘balance’ work and home life – it feels more like punching down bread dough that always keeps rising again! But keeping work stress in check has been the foundation of good parenting for me.
In my 30s, I was working to my maximum in all areas: finishing graduate school while also consulting, navigating relationships, buying and selling my first homes to get on the property ladder, and keeping up my social life and fitness. But life suddenly changed. Overnight, I was faced with 18 months of treatment for a rare genetic form of ovarian cancer and this was soon followed by an offer for a professor position and the adoption of my son from Russia…and then a divorce. Work-life balance, in order to regain my emotional and physical well-being as well as be a good mom, became, pretty non-negotiable. I just had to make it happen.
It was hard to change and it still takes consistent daily choices but some of the things I do differently now to maintain balance include saying “I would love to, but I can’t right now” to opportunities that won’t make a critical difference to my next promotion. Taking small breaks throughout the work day at times I notice my stress level has risen so that I don’t arrive home from work depleted. I discipline myself not to open email outside work hours (8:30 to 4:30, M-F).
Outside of work, apart from playing with my son, I prioritize the things that pay the highest dividends to my well-being: cooking real food, exercising, and investing in my core relationships. I don’t love to cook or exercise but the payoffs are too huge to ignore them. I have many other interests of course, but to balance work, home life and parenting, right now life has to be simpler and focused on only the stuff that matters most.
In all areas, instead of adding…try subtracting. Try keeping only the most important elements. I bet you will feel better as a result.