Thursday, 26 November 2009

Balance shmalance

Not a bad day so far. I've taken on a new role that I hope will be interesting (of which maybe more later), sorted out a writing commission and a radio thingy, all before lunch.
But the difference now is I did it from my mobile, knee deep in mud, walking the dog across a sunny ridge high in the Peak District.
Three weeks after quitting my job, and about two weeks and six days after breaking my promise to myself not to start anything new until after Christmas, I'm settling into a rough pattern where, um, there ain't a pattern.
Once my day divided fairly clearly into time at home (never enough) and time in the office(never enough either), with the occasional bit of guilty crossover (taking work home, nipping out at lunchtime to buy a birthday present).
Now the lines have blurred: everything's jumbled up, all the bits interleaving, sometimes all at once in a big tangle.
I might spend mornings at playgroup (fielding the odd call in the middle), hit the laptop at lunchtime when the boy is asleep, see a friend in the afternoon (with a bit of surreptitious email checking) and then I'm working out a column in my head while I cook dinner. I work in shorter bursts, and am having to learn to snap in and out of work mode and mummy mode sometimes several times in an hour.
The advantages? I'm definitely fitting in a wider mix of things - work, being someone's mum, a social life, time with my husband, stuff around the house - than before, and so I feel I'm wringing more out of the day.
The disadvantage is I still haven't worked out how to get time for myself (it's so long since I had any, I can't remember what you do with it) and it's harder to switch off work, as there isn't an equivalent of leaving the office at night.
But I now see what people mean when they suggest forgetting about work-life balance (which makes the two things sound like competing opposites always pulling in different directions) and thinking instead of each day as a blend of different things. Apart from the fact that I've always hated the phrase, I'm not sure balance is that useful an idea.


  1. I think you have to be fairly strict about setting aside time for yourself otherwise it will all merge into one. Think about it, if you can set time aside to walk the dog then you can set time aside for yourself. Schedule it in like an appointment if you can and don't try and justify it to anyone - you work hard, you need time to do whatever you need to.

  2. When my daughter was the age for naps I thought of that time as mine. It was only an hour or so a day but it kept me balanced between the constant eyes-on you have with a child and the physical need to switch right off from that. I would do something indulgent like read a magazine and rarely did housework or computer work. That was my routine and I truly believe it helped me be a better mother when the little rascal woke up.

  3. I love what you wrote about forgetting about the work-life balance and seeing each day as a blend of things. That is my life at the moment and will be for the forseeable future, hopefully. I'm doing some freelance and am returning to my three-day a week reporter's job next year and I like the mix-up in the day. Cook dinner, do some work, go to the library or swimming. The only think is that I tend to stay up far too late!

    I heard you interviewed on ABC radio and really enjoyed it!

  4. With three kids at home, I have come to experience something as mundane as grocery shopping by myself as "me time"! (No, I'm not joking.) While I certainly need to have some totally free, nonproductive time for myself now and then, I do indeed enjoy moments when I am simply off kid duty, even if I'm not really off "household management" duty. I get the kid-free hour or two several times a week. The totally personal hours are much more rare. To be fair, my husband hardly ever gets totally personal time either. He's either at work or here with us in his role as dad/partner. I guess I feel like my grocery trips and other errands are somewhat the equivialant of his going off to work -- still have obligations, but the family relationships can go on the back burner for a bit. I also read for pleasure whenever I can snatch a moment -- bathroom, before bed, over breakfast while the kids play. These little spots serve much as breaks used to when I was working outside the home: a short time to sit down and take a brief mental vacation.

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