[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Join in the #ELGLWorkLife series, survey and webinar focusing on work life balance. This series aims to address that age-old challenging of balancing professional work with a personal life.
Rebecca Olson (LinkedIn and Twitter) is the Assistant to the City Manager at the City of Shoreview, MN. In this role, Rebecca relies on her experience and judgement to help with a variety of projects including enhancing the city’s social media presence. Rebecca is an ELGL leader. She has created web content, assisted with coordinating events, and expanded our Midwest presence.
“To and Fro the Pendulum Throws….”
I signed up to write about this topic during what I can only describe as a moment of sheer arrogance and disillusion. I thought “Today is a good day. I’ve got this whole work/life balance thing pretty well under control. I could offer some great perspective.” So I sat down and started to think about what advice to offer on this topic.
I’ve been told I appear to have everything under control. I’ve got a gaggle of kids (ok, four to be exact) all who have their own busy schedules that I attempt to manage; I work full time in addition to the various volunteer work I do for several organizations (ELGL included!). To top it off, I help out my aging parents when I can. You would think that I could come up with some profound good advice.
But the more I thought about what work/life balance meant, the more I found myself with this anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach. I began questioning what work/life balance should look like and whether I truly had achieved a happy balance. My mind raced with all the possibilities of what I should be doing.
I am forever fighting the urge to compare myself to others. I compare how well my children are fed, and the quality of the stimulation I provide them in the summers, and thanks to Pinterest I now have a summer “bucket list” hanging on the fridge to make sure my kids don’t miss out on any summer fun. Unfortunately, those comparisons don’t stop with parenting. I am constantly wondering where I should be in my career, and if I am working hard enough, long enough, and smart enough. Then there is always the comparison of how well I’m doing as a friend, wife and daughter.
Thinking about these questions put doubts in my head that I was doing enough in any one of those areas in order to have a well balanced life and I began to feel guilty. I’m full of Catholic guilt, except I’m not Catholic. I’m a Midwestern, Lutheran girl who has a list of expectations for myself a mile long. These expectations have helped propel me to success in a number of ways throughout my life, but they have also led me to believe at times that I am inadequate. This situation was no different. I signed up to write this article and I was going to finish it.
I decided to stop thinking about how I may or may not have achieved work/life balance. I doubt that my scale of work/life balance is ever fully balanced. Instead my mind kept coming back to the Pearl Jam song “Pendulum” and how it seems to fit this concept better. The pendulum arm tends to swing back and forth between work and life, but rarely does it come to rest evenly in the middle. This vantage point allowed me to feel better about those times when I had to focus more of my attention at work than at home because I understood that at some point the arm would swing the other way.
Once I stopped trying to figure out if I had achieved the elusive work/life balance and accepted that my life was bound to swing from one area to the other, an amazing thing happened: that feeling in the pit of my stomach began to dissipate. I was able to sit down and contemplate what advice I would give to someone who is just starting to walk down the path of figuring out this whole work/life thing.
I’ve learned that there is no great secret to how to handle the work/life balancing game. If there was, I’m sure that secret would have been passed down from generation to generation – sort of like one of those secret Masonic rituals you see in The DaVinci Code. Everyone finds their own balance. However, I can share with you a few things I’ve learned in my attempt to switch my thought process from a work/life balancing scale to a work/life pendulum.
5 Lessons for Managing the Pendulum
Silos don’t work: Trying to separate work and life so that you can focus on one or the other is impossible. Inevitably home will creep up at work and you will have to deal with it and vice versa. Accept it, but set limits on both.
Stop the Buzzing: Put down your phone occasionally. Although silos don’t work, there are times when you need to focus exclusively on either work or home. This is where that pendulum begins to swing to one side or the other and those limits help it from swinging too far. Turn off notifications on your phone for an hour at work. The constant buzzing can be distracting. At home – put the phone down in another room for an hour. It is okay to be unreachable except for emergencies. And if someone really needs to get a hold of you, chances are there is more than one way to contact you.
Be selfish: As a mother of four, a volunteer for several non-profits, a child with aging parents with medical conditions, a wife and working full time – I am routinely doing things for others. It is important to remember to take care of yourself too. Do something you enjoy daily. Even if you have to sit on the counter in the bathroom reading a book with the door locked and the shower running so kids think you’re busy for 15 minutes – do it. I guarantee you will cherish those 15 minutes and that bathroom will become your special haven. (Not that I would know.)
Not everyone is a Master Juggler: There is not a single person on earth that is perfect. It may appear as though someone “has it all” and that they know the secret to work/life balance, but my guess is that there is some aspect of their life that at that very moment is in chaos. Trying to juggle a million different things at once usually results in dropping a ball or two. I promise not to judge how well you juggle if you do the same for me. In fact, I may even ask you to hold one of those balls for me while I try and find the one I dropped.
Nothing compares to you: Yes, it is a Sinéad O’Connor song; and it is a great motto to live by. Don’t compare other people’s lives to yours. Everyone is unique. Don’t worry about how you stack up against others. Find your happiness.If that means your house is constantly in a state of mess and your stress level is manageable – so be it! If it means that you leave work at 5:00 p.m. every night when others stay until 7:00, that’s ok. Everyone’s pendulum swings to a different beat.
Let’s continue to lend support to each other in finding the right work/life balance! You can continue the conversation by leaving comments, or discussing on Twitter using #ELGLWorkLife. If you’re interested in joining the conversation as a guest writer please contactBenjamin McCready at [email protected] or Freida Edgette.