The term work-life balance is mentioned a great deal in books and magazines, but is rarely defined.
Most researchers, including Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, agree that there are four generally areas that we need to attend to maintain our well-being. Certainly these areas all compete for our time, attention and energy.
These areas or life tasks are:
1. Work-life: if you are an at-home parent then this includes your domestic activities.
2. Family-life: this includes immediate family commitments and those from your broader family.
3. Social-life (friends): as social beings we crave connections outside our immediate family.
These four areas compete for your energy, your time and your focus. Spend too much time in one area, and you tend to neglect the others areas of your life.
The trouble with parenting is it takes so much of your time just being a parent.
Being a modern, involved parent means that you at times have to give up other areas of life. This is okay in the short-term, but it’s not a great long-term strategy. You still need to attend to the other areas of your life.
The trouble is, we often feel comfortable in one area so we spend more time there at the expense of others. Perhaps, you are going great guns at work so you spend more time there where your successes are celebrated and easily measured.
This can be at the expense of your family, your friends and your own personal life.
If you are dissatisfied with your lot right now, and think your life is out of whack then here are five ideas to help you put some order back and interest back into your life:
1. Be aware of where you are now: A thirty-something mum told me recently that she spends all her time at work, and when she’s not at work she’s looking after kids. Work, family, work, family! That’s all she had time for. “I need some ME time,” she said.
Well at least she knew where she stood! That’s first step. She knew she had to catch up with friends and start looking out for herself.
How are you going? Which of the four life tasks are you neglecting?
2. Establish priorities in each area in 90 day blocks: Yep, you need to priorities what’s important to you. If you need to put some energy into your social life and rekindle some friendships then you need to get on the phone and make some connections. And 90 days offer a good block of time to see some progress and review what you are doing.
3. Implement your plans (intentions aren’t good enough!): Be pro-active, rather than sit back and wait!
4. Seek support: As a parent you need good support networks if you are to attend to all four life tasks. On a practical level you need to be able to leave your kids on someone else’s care to give you a break. Support can come from a partner, friends and formal child carers. Foster these connections and be willing to look after other people’s kids while they attend to their personal and social needs, or just have a night out with their partner.
5. Recognise overlapping life tasks: Some people’s life tasks overlap. They get their fitness through corporate fitness programs; or their socialisation is at work; or their children are very much mixed up involved in work as happens on some farms. This is fine; you just need to know which life task is in focus when there is overlap.
Don’t feel guilty if you are not attending your kids. Guilt prevents many mothers from looking after their own well-being. You feel guilty, or rather your kids can make you feel guilty, for not being with them 24/7. That’s crazy thinking! You need to be interesting! You need a life outside your kids, so leave these unhealthy guilts behind.
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A popular presenter, Michael Grose speaks to parents, teachers and principals on a regular basis.Michael comes from an education background, and has conducted post-graduate research into what makes healthy families tick.He's given over 1500 parenting presentations, including the first parenting seminar in Parliament House, Canberra.Michael is married with three adult children who have all successfully flown the parent nest.