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What’s your rhythm ?

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Barbara Nixon By Barbara Nixon 

What’s your rhythm – I’ve always been a working mum, and when my older ones were small and I worked in corporate the one thing that it took me a while to work out was the concept of work life balance. I think my issue was with the word ‘balance’. For me this word meant work and home being equal at all times, and as any working mum would know…this is like searching for the Holy Grail. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that it always seemed just out of my grasp.

Now, even though I’ve always been fortunate to have a fantastic support system in my mum so I didn’t have to worry about childcare, I still had to be places at a certain time. I still needed to pick up the kids and drop them off, and I still needed to do a tonne of stuff when I got home that we all have to do – and all I ever seemed to do was rush. Rush to get everyone out of the house in the morning (no matter how early I got up) rush to get to work and get parked (a challenge in itself), then rush to get home, pick the kids up, prepare dinner, do homework and so on and so on. You know the drill. So amidst all this rushing there didn’t seem to be any balance. Let alone the inevitable days that I had to work late, travel with work, stay home to care for poorly children or take the afternoon to watch their nativity plays. So after a while I stopped striving for work life balance and well, just got on with it…and that’s when it hit me!

The problem wasn’t with the concept of work life balance, but with me.

I had created an idealistic definition of what that meant…and it just wasn’t realistic, at least not for my life.  For me, it wasn’t so much about finding balance, but more about finding my rhythm.

So, I no longer tried to balance work and home instead I danced in between. Nowadays I’ve even got rid of the word ‘juggle’ for how I describe my life as this sets me off thinking that I’m desperately trying not to drop any of the balls, which isn’t really true, and re-framing my thinking helped me feel a lot more in control and a lot less…. well, panicky!

So – if you’re ready to ditch the idea of work life balance and replace it with finding your rhythm here are some ideas to get you started…

  1. Get organised

Being organised is so important so you not only know where you need to be and by when, but you don’t feel as though you’re always rushing or thinking on your feet. Organisation is always different for different people, but for me the ultimate in organisation came when I knew what I was making for dinner.  I know this sounds super simple and not businessey at all…but I felt that I was a lot more relaxed if I could immediately answer the ‘what’s for dinner?’ question the kids would ask rather than trying to conjure something up ‘Ready Steady Cook’ fashion.

  1. Communicate

By letting everyone know what’s happening and when, you’ll be able to work a lot more smoothly. If your team know that you’re leaving early to do a school run, and if they can get in touch, you’ll stop feeling as guilty about leaving work.  The flip side of this is – don’t be afraid to switch your phone off in the evenings because you’re spending time with your family…just keep your team in the loop.

  1. Think about what works best for your family

If having an evening meal together is impossible due to your work commitments – how about enjoying breakfast together? You don’t have to do the same as everyone else. Instead make your own rules as a family and do what works best for you.

  1. Choose your battles

This is one of my all-time favourite mantras and it works a treat here…By figuring out what are the most important tasks in my week I can work down from there…but I’d always add the word…’really!’ at the end of that sentence. So, for example – ‘what are my most important tasks this week….really?’ For me this meant…would my world crumble if that didn’t happen? If not, and it didn’t have a serious impact on something else…I’d leave it out. This also came down to things round the house – so instead of striving for my idea of perfection  – I’d give myself a break – (For me this even came down to pairing socks…life’s just too short!)

  1. Decide what rhythm looks like for you

One of the problems I had with the ‘work life balance’ concept was my idea of it. The vision I’d created in my head. Once I re-designed that vision everything changed. So, take a moment to think about what your work life rhythm means to you. Not ideally, but realistically, and work within this framework. Remember your kids won’t be little for ever, as I write this the little ones that I had when I was figuring out my rhythm are now 19 and 16! Accept that your rhythm will change as time goes on…and just focus on making it work really well for you right now.

I’d love to hear how you go about making your work life rhythm and any tips you’ve got to share.

Head over to Mothers mean Business Facebook to join in the conversation on what’s your rhythm.

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