Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Finding balance for yourself and your family

Balance... That holy grail of our busy lives. So hard to find, because things are constantly changing, but so important to seek to prevent burn out.

When I was younger I always thought I'd been a keen Suzy Homemaker, whisking up jars of preserves in between building blanket forts and teaching practical life skills to my adorable offspring. I imagined it to be idyllic and rewarding, and that I'd fit in plenty of community involvement around raising well-balanced sprogs.

I happily slogged away in the corporate world for quite a few years, but once I was faced with the reality of an impending human (i.e. got pregnant), I suddenly had no idea what I wanted. Like many New Zealanders, I put my parental leave request in for the full 12 months I was entitled to and figured I'd adjust later if I needed to.

As it turned out, my can't-sit-still personality and a very easygoing infant combined to make me desperate to be back at work within months. It was rewarding being at home with a little baby but also damn hard - I was bored and lonely. I arranged with my manager to return to work when the Little Monkey was six months old, for 20 hours a week spread over three days.

This turned out to be an ideal balance... Except in the wrong job.

I loved going to work, exercising my professional mind, being able to snatch quick coffee hot chocolate breaks with colleagues. And I loved seeing my little one settling into daycare, enjoying spending lots of time hanging out with other kids, and doing well planned, age appropriate activities which I am too lazy to organise for him at home.

I always found I was fairly wiped out by the end of my working week, though, so Thursdays became recovery day, where I'd catch up on neglected chores and the Little Monkey would have longer naps to make up for the sometimes very brief ones at daycare.

Unfortunately it became clear within a few months that my particular job was not well suited to the part time hours, and working more wasn't palatable to me since I was already out of reserves. So I quit. 

Our Little Monkey enjoying the play equipment at daycare
Because the small one is very settled into an amazing daycare centre he still goes there three days a week, while I try to work out what I'm doing with my life. So that's why at the moment I'm largely focusing on the blog - I love writing (and baking!), and I'm hoping that perhaps eventually I can make some small amount of money from it. It may not work but I feel like I have to give it a crack. 

The balance we have means we really relish the time we have together on Thursdays and Fridays, as well as the family time at the weekends - instead of always feeling bored or tired or stressed we're happy (with, of course, moments of the bad stuff).

I know that I'm very lucky to be able to follow this path, experimental as it is - I really feel for those who don't have the option to take time out when they need it. But if you are feeling like you're at the end of your tether all the time I encourage you to think about whether there's something you could change in your life that might help you get back to your happy place. Even small things can make a difference.

I don't just mean for folk with kids, either - I know mostly when we talk about this stuff it's because of kids, and for our family that was the catalyst for change, but not everyone is suited to the 9-5 and our society seems to forget that.

And if you've worked it out, I'd love to hear about your balance - what works for you? Did it take you a while to find it or did you always know what you wanted? 

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