I received a lovely thank you card in the post from one of my clients the other day. It is always wonderful to feel appreciated by your clients, and to feel like you have made a real difference to them, and I read the card with a sense of satisfaction…..until I read the last sentence:
“you are an awesome example of how to balance it all”
Crikey, I thought, does she mean me? You see, I feel like I spend my entire life running from A to B, doing nothing particularly well and feeling completely unbalanced 99% of the time. On any given day, I seem to do more outfit changes than Meghan Markle, or should I say the Duchess of Sussex. I’ll be in gym gear to do the school drop off, then change into a suit to do a couple of corporate coaching sessions, then home to throw on jeans to watch one of the boys play sport and do pick-up and then collapse into “leisure wear” before the tidal wave that is bath time. Sound familiar?
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of this is my choice. I made a deal with myself that when I left my full-time job, I would be there for the boys and prioritise them no matter what. I’ve honoured that deal, but my goodness, it makes life hard. To be honest, most of the time I am staggering over the finishing line at the end of the day, clutching a glass of sauvignon blanc in one hand and my diary on my phone in the other, wondering how on earth I am going to solve the jigsaw puzzle that is the next day.
However, along the way, I have learned a few things that make my life, and the life of my family, just that little bit easier. None of them are particularly ground breaking, but they at least help keep me sane, and it seems, present the appearance to the outside world that I can “balance it all”!
GET SMART WITH YOUR DIARY: Determine your absolute non-negotiable priorities, mark them in your diary in RED and honour them. For me, exercise is super important and I schedule 3 sessions a week and stick to them, fitting work meetings around them. The same goes for school events that I don’t want to miss and making sure I have regular meet-ups with friends planned so I have something to look forward to.
MAKE PEACE WITH COMPROMISE: Honesty time, you can’t have it all. Working out where you are willing to compromise in life will make this a lot easier to accept. Through trial and error I have worked out how many coaching clients I can handle at any given time, whilst still allowing me to be there for my family. This means I have had to make peace with the fact that I will only ever earn a certain amount of money and that I often have to turn work down (a tough compromise for me), but I can still make time for the boys, my husband, my friends and exercise and that’s what balance means to me.
HAVE SOME BACK-UP: Even if, like me, you have decided not to have regular childcare, its a good idea to have someone you can call on for the times when you do need a bit more flexibility. Again, organisation is key. I look at the next 3 months in my diary and work out when I will need help (either for work or play) and I get it booked in as soon as possible. That way I know that I have cover where I need it, and avoid those last minute panics.
SCHEDULE FAMILY DOWN-TIME: I know, I know, its such a 21st century concept that you would actually schedule quality time with your family, but hey, needs must. My husband and I decided a while back that where possible, we would only agree to evenings out once at the weekend, if we got out at all! That way, we know that we always have a night of quality family time every weekend, no matter how busy the week has been.
GET GOOD AT SAYING NO: Lastly, you can’t do everything, in work life or home life. Its OK to say no. Your friends and family will get that sometimes you just can’t fit everything in, or need to bail at the last minute. And from a work perspective, saying you can’t do it right now doesn’t mean you won’t ever be asked again, actually it can be a good thing - companies or prospective clients will often take it that if you are busy you must be good and therefore worth waiting for!
In the end, I always say one thing is certain once you have children - change is a constant - and you will be in a state of playing catch-up / winging it most of the time. But a little bit of organisation can go a long way to at least feeling like you have a small amount of control….. until one of them is up ill all night the night before a big meeting and then its back to square one, but hey, welcome to the juggle of parenting and working!