This past week I have been feeling especially conflicted (grumpy) about the balance between home life and work life. My work life as a blogger/journalist/content creator/whatever is still very new, evolving and eats up all the time I can give to it. On top of this muddle-juggle, we have had a double-digits birthday and impending holiday to get ready for (why does going away for a week seem to involve as much preparation as relocating to a different continent?). It has made me VERY irritable.
I have been stressed, moany and resentful of the fact that I am still taking on the majority of the household admin. I can feel suffocated by the kid’s timetable. Now that I have found something that I would like to work on, I’d just like to crack on with it, please.
I’m finding it difficult to ring-fence my working time. I am constantly taking breaks to load the dishwasher, or the washing machine, to phone the doctors or hairdresser, to buy and wrap gifts or shop for food. Why oh why does my son never have any clean underpants and why is it just me who is responsible for the PANTS?!!
But as my grandmother says “if you start feeling sorry for yourself, you are in deep trouble”. So let’s talk solutions.
Flexible or overcommitted?
My new work life is entirely flexible. I’m at liberty to work completely around the children. Great right? Talk about the grass is always greener because now I often grave the order of a 9 to 5 working day. In practice, does flexible working just mean trying to squeeze in two full-time jobs? How many of us work flexibly, and end up doing far more domestically than we would if we were restricted to conventional office hours?
So I am going to create some more formal ‘work’ time for myself during the week. For a start, I am going to go to a co-working space on Fridays. For a WHOLE DAY. Between Matt and our parents, someone else will collect the children from school. I’ve been toying with this idea for a while, but because it means an (albeit relatively small) financial investment, have been reluctant to commit. I’m not making any money yet, and I think that’s still a way off. But it is ok to invest in myself (it costs less than swimming lessons), and if it can take the pressure off us all, and mean less work at weekends, then I think it’s worth a shot.
I’m actually really looking forward to having an office to go to once a week and being able to string together some solid hours of work. I’ll write about it and let you know how it goes.
What is the right amount of selfish?
Don’t ask me exactly what I’m up to with this blog yet, I couldn’t quite tell you. I’m working on it. But there is a lot that I would like to do. After some years as a full-time mum, it is great to have a creative project to work on. As we know, most dads don’t suffer existential crises over work/life balance, so I don’t feel guilty about trying to make it happen.
However, I’m the one who has changed the game. I set an expectation that I’ll do most things for the children and home, and it’s only me who wants that to change. It’s not fair to expect everyone to immediately fall in happily with this. Plus, I would really like to do both, just a bit differently. So better boundaries need to be set.
And about the kids (and Matt and my friends)
Social media can bleed into your every waking moment if you allow it to. So I am going to make a conscious effort to be more ‘in the room’ for the children. It’s another irony that when I wasn’t working, I worried about the example that set (you know, mums do work). So we talk about what I am doing and why, and the kids can (and should) take on extra responsibilities around organising themselves.
I still need to work more on setting realistic goals about what is achievable in the hours that I have. I have written about the light bulb moment when I realised I couldn’t possibly do everything thing I’ve been trying to, have a read. Plus, the long Summer holidays are looming. So I need to work out how to navigate the break without becoming the grumpiest, shoutiest parent in the south of England.
I would really love to know how other working mums, dads, freelancers, home workers, bloggers and hobbyists manage to strike this balance. Let’s chat.