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Work-Life Balance

Jessica E.
JESSICA E.
Personal Development Coach
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Personal Development Coach Jessica Eley is here to answer questions about returning to work, keeping a marriage or partnership strong with kids and finding work-life balance. Ask her about mom-guilt, managing feelings of inadequacy and jealousy and not losing yourself in your kids while still helping them feel loved and cared for. Check out Jessica's profile for more information about her and Jessica Eley Coaching.

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JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How can I prioritize "me time"?
KASEY, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica! I am very lucky to be my own boss and make my own hours. However, I can't seem to find any "me time"... mostly just to work out. I find that when I am not working, I want to be spending time with the kids. What are some good strategies for carving out that "me time"?

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Kasey -

As a fellow entrepreneur, I get this. You may benefit from my responses to Megan and Paula below, but I'll add this: you said, "...when I am not working, I want to be spending time with the kids." You have a decision to make (and then to not judge yourself for): do you want to be with your kids more or get in some alone time more? What is your priority (and really allow yourself to think through this, because many moms would default to saying their kids because it sounds like the "right" answer)? It's not to say you can't do both, but if you're not getting enough "me time" to ask about it here, it's likely that you need to prioritize yourself for a bit. Put it in the calendar like you would another meeting or client, start your morning doing something for yourself, or schedule something that involves making an appointment (so you have to show up!).

At the end of the day, prioritizing yourself is a matter of choosing to do so and then not feeling bad about it.

Does that help?

KASEY

Thank you, very helpful!

Our Q&A is now over.
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Thank you, Jessica! There are a variety of opportunities to work one-on-one with Jessica through Jessica Eley Coaching to achieve your personal and professional goals. Check out her profile for more info!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
2 career family - balance?
KATIE, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 11 MONTH OLD

Hi Jessica,

My husband has an incredibly demanding job with erratic and intense hours. I have a much more flexible job. We have an infant and a nanny for 40 hours a week. Because my job is much more flexible than my husband's and requires fewer hours, I end up picking up the slack around the house and with our child. If the nanny is late, I cover the difference. If our child is sick, I'm the one taking him to the doctor. My husband does his best to help out, but the reality is just that my career feels like it's playing second fiddle and it's hard not to get a bit frustrated by the situation. I also tend to feel more urgency with regards to getting tasks done around the house (my spouse is more laissez faire), which certainly doesn't help the situation! Any tips?

Thank you.

RACHNA

Following this as I completely relate to this question!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Kat (and Rachna) -

First, know that this is super common - one parent ends up being the "default parent" who, like you said, always picks up the slack. Here are a few things to consider:

Which part is more frustrating to you: that your career is secondary? that your husband doesn't have to even think about things like doctor appointments? that he's not as urgent about helping at home (or, conversely, that you are so urgent about it?)? There's something that you wish was more of a priority that's not getting as much time and attention as you want. While there are many side effects to your current family balance, there's one consequence that's bothering you most and is the one you need to find a way to make feel better (you do that by deciding what your current priority needs to be and then give yourself some permission to let some of the other things be less of a priority).

So for instance, if you're just sick of "handling" everything at home, talk to your husband about it. It sounds as though he's supportive but doesn't have the time or exact same priorities at home as you - and that's ok, but you both need to understand where the other one is coming from. Something as simple as, "It would mean a lot to me if you'd tell me thank you for taking our kiddo to the doctor," might help him understand that it's an inconvenience to you and help you feel better understood/appreciated.

Also, even though you're *usually* the default parent, don't hesitate to ask if your husband, nanny, or someone else could pitch in (but do so without frustration or feeling bitter). A lot of times, because things have played out one way (like you always picking up the slack), we start to believe that's how it HAS to play out and don't even ask for or explore how we could make it happen differently. When you ask for what you want, you may get a, "No, I can't make that happen this time," but you also might get occasional, unexpected support that will help you feel less alone and taken for granted. It'll also help your husband understand your needs and day-to-day reality.

Long story short: keep those lines of communication open, challenge your assumptions about what's possible/necessary (as a mom, wife, and professional), and make some solid decisions about what's most important to you (and then let some of the rest go!).

Does that give you a place to start?

KATIE

Thanks Jessica. Yes, that is very helpful. I definitely need to do a better job prioritizing & making sense of what actually *needs* to get done. It's a hard skill to learn, but I'll give it my best shot! Thanks! Kat

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Adjusting to a newborn
KARINA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

I have a 5 week old baby and am struggling with this new adjustment to having a little person with me all the time. Prior to having a baby I worked full-time at a relatively demanding job so all of this downtime is great but also very different for me. I am nursing so it is tough to be away for too long. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for new moms struggling with this new normal to still feel like themselves.

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Karina -

Congratulations on your little one! Also, kudos for reaching out for help - you'll get the hang of this mom thing :)

Here's a few things to think about:

1) What made you "feel like yourself" in the past and how can you still incorporate parts of that into your life right now? It may not look exactly the same (you can probably do more WITH your baby than you think - just try it!), but think about what made you feel the best pre-baby and see if you can at least sneak glimmers of that into your life right now so you don't feel like a completely different person. You are simultaneously still the same person you always were and are forever changed by being a mom - try to view that as an expansion of who you are, not a restriction.

2) Try wallowing in as many positive aspects of your current circumstances as you can. As with anything, there's always a downside, but the more you condition yourself right now to practice seeing the good, the easier motherhood will be on you in the long-run. You got a good start on this when you said "all the downtime is great" - keep going in that vein!

3) Practice being very present while simultaneously reminding yourself that everything is temporary. What's that mean? When you're doing something with your baby, enjoy your baby. When you're doing something for you, soak it up. And when everything hits the fan or you have an overwhelming day, recognize that tomorrow, next week, or next year will look different.

How's that sound?

KARINA

Thank you so much!!! This was so refreshing to hear and these are things I can definitely work to implement in my life. This reminds me that I need to slow down and try to enjoy this time.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
I have so many questions - this couldn't come at a better time.
JO, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

I have a 3yr old and an 8 month old, and just started a new job in October. I am still trying to learn the ropes at work, and I have tons of mom guilt that I can't be home with my boys full or part time. My 3yo is a mess when I pick him up from school, and needs to be snuggled most of the night until it's time for bed. I feel like with that, plus getting dinner ready etc, I don't spend much time with the baby. My husband doesnt get home until around bath time, so most of the evening is on me. Most nights, I go to bed cranky, frustrated, and filled with self doubt.

I want to ask my boss if I can work from home 2x/week but don't know if it's too soon (the others in my department work from home 1-2x/wk).

Any advice on that and/or how to deal with evenings? Or any words of wisdom? Will I always have mom guilt of some kind?

Jessica
JESSICA

Hey Jo -

First, I'm sorry you LO is having a tough time at school - that makes it harder to feel good about leaving every day (side note: have you talked to his school? do you have other options? sometimes it's just a transition thing, and other times, your kiddo would be better off in a different environment).

Dig into these feelings ("cranky, frustrated, and filled with self doubt"). What's the mom guilt come from? In other words, what consequences are you imagining about you not being home with your boys? We only feel guilt when there's something we want for someone else (in the case of our kids, it's usually "love") that we think we can't give them (but of course we can still love our kids plenty, even if we're not with them 24/7). It sounds like that's why you feel bad about not spending as much time with the baby as your 3yo, but your kids knowing they're loved isn't directly correlated to how much time you spend with them. Once you figure out what story you're telling yourself that's making you feel guilty, it'll be easier to find the holes in it and acknowledge that it's not true.

As far as asking if you can work from home, again, what's the worst that can happen? Wondering what your boss would say and then sitting in indecision about asking is just going to keep you miserable - get the information you need ("yes, you can work from home" or "no, you can't") so you can move on from there.

And if I could just nip one thing in the bud, it would be this: "Will I always have mom guilt of some kind?" Only if you choose to. Decide on what things you think are important as a mom, as a person, as a wife, and do those things. Be open to changing your mind about what matters. Commit to showing up in the ways you decided are important, do your best, and then be confident that your best will be good enough.

How's that all feel?

JO

Thank you so much, this was wonderfully written.

I think those feelings are based in the fact that I can see my son is having a tough time. I have this image that if I was home more, or didnt have to work as late, I could improve some of the frustration and sadness I see in him every evening. In my brain, I know that that's not necessary 100% true, but my mama bear wants to fix it.

I've talked with the school a bunch - asking them to make sure he naps, trying to talk about feelings, and transitions, and all that stuff. I think generally, it's a great curriculum, but I worry that there is something that isn't working. We have been contemplating a change of schools for next year. I worry that another school will be another tough transition.

The other piece to this, I have this image of my mother, who was a full time (over-time) working single mom and wasn't around much. I have told myself I wanted to be there for my boys as much as possible. This is my baggage that I carry and the image of a mother that I have.

Lastly, thank you again for your closing words! That resonates so much and I appreciate it. Hugs.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Me time?
PAULA, PARENT OF 5 YEAR OLD

I have an amazing toddler and a very demanding job with erratic hours and travel. I have managed to figure out the work/child balance for the most part. I do have guilt when my daughter cries when I leave for trips asking if she can go with me but normal days it's usually ok. I'm doing the best I can to make everyone happy, including myself, but I'm having a hard time finding time to get to the gym. I don't want to sacrifice more time with my daughter and I'm always feeling behind with work in general. Any advice for fitting the gym back into my life? As it is I'm only sleeping about 5 hours a night to fit it all in.

Jessica
JESSICA

If I had a mantra of motherhood that I share with everyone, it's this: You can have anything you want, but you cannot have everything you want at the same time. That's not a bad thing because focus on what we really want and value helps us get more of it.

Pick what's important and be aware that these things are going to shift periodically. You'll need to re-evaluate your priorities a couple times a year, but decide on one area of life to focus on at any given time. If the gym is calling to you, let something else go (go through your day and week and check in with what feels like an obligation rather than a joy. If it's something you're doing because you "should," it could likely be eliminated, reduced, or delegated.). You already said you're not willing to sacrifice more daughter-time - that's fine! Keep that as a non-negotiable. Then you said you always feel behind with work - so just lean into that. If it's something that's always going to be that way, no sense in driving yourself crazy trying to change it. Do what you can when you're there, and then allow yourself to be present at home and enjoy that time.

Long story short - don't try to pack more in! Shift your expectations and focus on what you REALLY care about. Does that help?

PAULA

Yes it does help! I think the re-evaluation is key. Priorities shift so that makes sense. Thank you!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
The work week
MEGAN, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 15 MONTH OLD

My little one is 6-months old and during the work week I find that I am busy the minute I get home from work between feeding the baby, preparing meals, washing pump parts/bottles, bath, going through a bed-time routine that I rarely have time for myself. By the time I put the baby to bed I find myself falling asleep on the couch. There is little to no time for exercise, reading, catching up on more work, having a conversation with my husband, etc. I can't even keep my eyes open! Any tips on developing a routine that creates a little balance after work?

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Megan -

The juggle is real, right?! Let's talk a bit about how you can set yourself up for success, because while it sounds silly, many moms set themselves up for failure with their expectations.

1) What can you stop doing? I know the temptation is to say, "Nothing! It's all important!" but the truth is, we make tasks important primarily based on what we believe will happen if we don't do those things. What if there isn't a bath every night? What if dinner is a super simple 10 minute thing? What if........? Like I mentioned in the Q above, challenge your assumptions about what HAS to be and stay open and curious about creative solutions.

2) Fill your cup first. When you take care of yourself (YOU, as a person, not your to-do list), you'll better be able to take care of adulting/mom-things. What are you MOST missing right now? Do you need 15 minutes to sit down and read? Do you miss working out and feeling good physically? Give yourself permission to prioritize those things. There is no nobility in pretending you don't want or need something you really enjoy in the name of "getting things done." Self-sacrificing actually bites you AND your family in the butt!

3) Decide on your non-negotiables. What must be done every day or week - for you as a person, as a mom, at home, with your husband, etc. - for you to feel like it was a good day/week (I'd suggest no more than 3 things)? Once those things are done, everything else is a bonus! This is a matter of knowing what you really want and then releasing yourself of the pressure to try to do everything (which no one can).

How's that sound?

MEGAN

Thank you Jessica! I am definitely at odds with my "old self" and trying to keep up many of the things I did prior to starting our family. Clearly, I'm hitting a sort of breaking point after being back at work for 3 months now. Though both my husband and I are working (like the post below - I can relate :)) I am taking on the brunt of parenting/housework responsibilities. I really like your comments on what I can stop doing and also writing down those non-negotiable/priorities for myself.

Jessica
JESSICA

Yup, makes sense Megan - what we valued pre-kids vs. with-kids changes! If you give yourself the opportunity to sit down and make some conscious choices about what matters NOW, you'll be much happier because you have a framework for making your decisions.

Good luck to you!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Return to work
JULIE , PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica, I was lucky to take 6 months off from work following the birth of our baby and will be returning as of the new year. I have been doing the brunt of the housework and caring for the baby on my leave. My husband helps when he is home but I would like us to shift to a more even division of labor when I go back. What can I do now to help prepare? Do you have any general tips for moms returning to work? Thank you!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Julie -

Congrats on your little one! You may want to look at the answers I gave to Kat and Megan in terms of dealing with the brunt of housework, but we can definitely talk about preparing to go back to work.

Most importantly, prepare mentally!

What's that look like?
1) Acknowledge that life is different now, which means that things may not go the way you were used to pre-baby. There's going to be (another) adjustment period as you head back to work - embrace that and be ok with trial and error as you figure out your new normal.
2) Get clear on your priorities. I mentioned this to the other ladies too - the more aware you are of what you need, what makes you feel good, what helps you stay sane, etc, the better off you'll be. Don't judge yourself for what you need, but then be ok with letting the less-essential stuff go. Also, have conversations with your husband about these priorities - often, couples have different priorities, which can be a real source of strain. Keep talking!
3) Stay curious and experimental about what works for you and your family. You can't say with certainty what will be a good fit for your needs, so don't be afraid to try things you'd previously thought you'd never do (e.g. I swore my kids would never go to a daycare... then I found the most amazing place on accident and our whole family benefited).
4) Trust YOURSELF! It's fine to ask for suggestions, but ultimately, no one can advise (or tell you!) what's best for you. Be honest with yourself about what's working, what's not, and try things based on that.

Does that help? Good luck to you as you make this transition!

Our Q&A starts now!
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Welcome personal development coach, Jessica Eley! Jessica is here to answer questions about balancing relationships, careers and parenthood. Worried about returning to work from maternity leave? Curious how to navigate the changing roles of your relationship now that you have a baby? Jessica is here to help!