Early on in my pregnancy I was having one of those moments where I wondered how I was going to manage two small people and a career. I’m competitive and want to do well but at the same time my mum gave me and my sister a great childhood staying at home with us so I value spending quality time with my children. I came across I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam and I was interested to see how other women carve out their time.
There are loads of interesting tips within the book but some key things which stood out for me were:
Lesson: Don’t Fixate on the Ideal be Realistic
It can be easy to focus on the negative, the times when things go wrong or targets get missed. I’ve fallen into this before both in terms of work and home life. Dismissing a day out because Luke’s played up instead of focusing on the good parts, the special moments spent together. Beating myself up for being tired one night and taking the lazy route in terms of food and entertaining Luke instead of putting it in perspective as a rarity rather than the norm. Getting hung up when someone finds fault in a design instead of focusing on the parts I got right and looking at it as an opportunity to learn. It’s moving away from an obsession with perfectionism to being realistic, accepting you’re human and giving yourself credit for what you do achieve, actively making an effort to look for the positive.
Lesson: Zoom out from one day and look at the bigger picture
For around 6 months I was travelling every other week for 3 days away from home and I felt extremely guilty for doing it and being away from Luke those two nights. Zooming out and looking at the bigger picture it gave me two nights to geek out and have me time. I read books to Luke each night I was away over FaceTime. Keeping up our bedtime routine. I work a 4 day week so was still spending more hours with Luke than many 9-5 five days a week mums. My weekends were freer because of what I’d achieved those two nights I was away. I was refreshed and made more of an effort to appreciate and make the most of my time with my family.
Lesson: It’s ok if 9-5 in the office everyday doesn’t work for you
I found it refreshing to see how many of the women in the book didn’t work typical 9-5 because that totally resonates with me. I work the equivalent of 4 days a week since having Luke. Up until this week that meant working Tuesday to Friday. On a Monday I’d keep an eye on my mail/Skype so I was fairly up on what was happening. It gave me 3 full days with Luke and along with my mum taking him one day meant he spent the majority of the week with family. Now that Luke is starting school I’ve switched to 2 half days and 3 full days so I can pick him up twice a week. If I need to work extra it is rarely carrying on beyond 5, it is generally later at night once I’ve spent time with Luke and put him to bed. Sometimes the OH or my mum picks Luke up and I go hard at it one night so the rest of the week/weekend will not involve overtime. I like to spend the majority of the week in the office as I prefer working with people face to face but working from home the odd day can save me around an hour and a half commuting so it’s great to have the flex to do it at times. Sometimes I work at the weekend or on my day off. If it means I can get something sorted and be present the rest of the time instead of worrying about it then it is worthwhile.
Lesson: Make time for what is important to you
The past few months have been my most challenging in terms of finding time for what is important to me. Pregnancy has meant I’m much more tired than usual and my evenings seem to have disappeared. Once Luke is in bed I’m ready for bed. In order to make time for the things that are important I’ve found I need to plan a bit more and set aside time. Normally I exercise at home with Turbofire or run but at the moment I’ve not the motivation to do either so I’ve signed up for two classes, aquabellies and yogabellies. Paying upfront is a motivator to attend and I love it once I’m there. They really help me to chill out and look after myself. In terms of blogging and learning I’m keeping a trello board so if I get spare time I can pick something off the board and get stuck in instead of faffing around trying to decide what to do. I don’t think there is an easy answer when you have small children. I think you have to be creative about fitting things in and accept you will be wrecked at times. It’s worth it. Later in life I’ll get more me time again.
Lesson: Set Yourself up to Succeed
There were lots of things that the women did in the book that I felt would be useful to apply to my own life to help me succeed. As someone who has to leave at a set time to make childcare pickup I liked the idea of performing a 4pm triage. Looking at what I have which is outstanding and splitting it in to what has to be done before I leave and what can wait. It’s made me think about how I approach things, making sure I have the ground work in place to get the most out of meetings, conferences etc. Re-evaluating how I’m spending my work time to make sure it is doing something worthwhile. This will be even more important when I return to work after my second child. I want to make sure I spend my work time wisely and seize opportunities while not overcommitting. Easy eh?
Lesson: Be Present
It can be easy when tired or under pressure to not be truly present in the moment. I think I could definitely be better at this. When I have a big challenge ahead or know I’ve a lot to get through I find it hard to think of anything else. I really want to work at being focused mentally on what I’m currently doing. If I’m having downtime I want to forget what I have on after that. If I’m with Luke I want to be focused on him, enjoying our time together as although I’m currently his best bud I know I won’t always be his number one person to spend time with.
Lesson: Remember Why you Work
Grass is always greener and all that. Sometimes in the haze of working mother guilt I forget why I work. I work for lots of reasons. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. I like the fact that it means I can make an equal contribution to my OH in terms of supporting our family. The money I earn allows me to regularly take Luke places and do things we might not be able to afford on one wage. While some of the reasons are for me others benefit the rest of my family. Again it is keeping perspective.
Lesson: Plan Some Fun
The book made me re-evaluate my weekday pre and post work time. Every day does not have to be a dinner, bath, bed routine. After work can be a great opportunity to get out and do something with my family. To be fair the Northern Ireland weather hasn’t helped me with this. Normally in the summer Luke and I regularly hit the beach or park after work. I need to be better at thinking of fun indoor things to do. I think I might pull together a bucket list of things to do indoor/outdoor so when we get a day off or some free time I can quickly get an idea of something fun to do instead of wasting time procrastinating.
Date nights def need to be re-introduced before baby 2 arrives. We’ve been rubbish at this recently mostly because we’ve one parent living near by who already has Luke one day a week. I need to get more creative with the at home date nights.
While the book gave me some new ideas for how to manage my time, the main thing I took out of it was a sense that how I handle things and feel was totally normal. Seeing similarities in how other women approached work/child balance was reassuring.