I don’t usually blur the line between my hobby (blogging) and my career (behavior analysis), but I feel like this particular topic can benefit us all in this crazy culture that we are living in. For those of you that don’t know, I have another instagram (@behaviormagictherapy) where I share ABA tips + tricks, and I posed the question of sharing my thoughts on work/life balance and everyone replied with a resounding yes. So here I am.
My field (amongst others I’m sure) is renown for blurring boundaries and having severe burn out within the community. Working so closely with families day in and day out can cause you to always be “on,” and I was able to manage this pressure with relative ease for years…until I started a family. The second I became a mom and came back after maternity leave, I felt an insane amount of stress and anxiety with the task of balancing my child, my husband, my hobbies AND still being a kick ass analyst. And yes, although at times I feel bogged down and let my negative thoughts consume me, I know I am still good at my job. But that is because, although I learned to say no to others some time ago, I am just recently learning to say no to myself. And that by saying no to my overachieving, over anxious mind, I can still manage to do a good job without negatively effecting myself and other (honestly more important) areas of my life.
And here are the things I do to try to lead a more “balanced” life. They may not work for you. But I’m sharing them in case they could.
- I do NOT work weekends. This goes as far as I do not respond to work emails, texts or phone calls unless it is a dire emergency (spoiler alert: it never is). Weekends are reserved for my family and my own self care. Being working parents with a child in day care means that we are barely ever all together, as a family unit. Our weekends allow us to enjoy each other – something that is way higher on the totem pole of values for me than my career.
- I do not work face to face hours past 5-5:30pm. I do not take on cases with only late hours. When I say I am leaving a session, that is the time I am leaving. Not because I have a nail appointment or I’m tired. It’s because I have a child to pick up before her day care closes. I do not have the luxury of having family readily available to help with any childcare needs so everything falls on myself + my husband. My husband works far and long hours, so the responsibility mainly falls on me. The worst anxiety I’ve ever felt is driving in traffic after I left a session too late because I fear I will not get to my kid in time. Whatever needs to be said to me, can be said over the phone when I leave session and get in my car.
- I do not take any work-related calls after I pick up my daughter. The second my kid is with me, I break the umbilical cord to work. I’m only with my child for approximately 3-4 hours a day during the week before I put her down for bed, so you bet I’m going to give her my undivided attention. I still answer emails and texts, but they are brief.
- I do not answer anything work related past 9pm. Well, unless I initiated it. As a parent to a toddler, I start most work post-bedtime, but it is always just paperwork and emails. If I do send a text, I always preface it with “I know it’s late, so don’t feel like you have to respond to this until tomorrow…” I honestly do this because if I don’t send it when it’s fresh in my mind, I will 100% forget. However, if a parent spams me with texts or videos at 10pm (this happens more often than you think), I wait to respond or comment until the following morning. I should be able to unwind in front of the TV with my husband for the 2-3 hours we have together in the evening during the week.
- I mute all work-related messages on my phone and email when on vacation. And I won’t answer.
Sorry. I just recently was bombarded while on vacation with work texts, and I found it so unnecessary. It really, really upset me that I couldn’t go away with my family to disconnect for a WEEKEND without getting inundated with work-related messages. I let my overachieving brain tell me I had to answer. And I did. And then I got so angry I did. Because I shouldn’t have to. And you better believe I won’t be making that mistake again.
It may seem to outsiders that I am working less than before, but I am working more than I ever have in my life because my “job” doesn’t end after I leave “work.” My role as a mother takes over (lets face it, that hat is always on), and she, and the rest of my family, will always take precedence over work. This leads me to think (more than I’d like) that I am failing at my career, but I’ve just realized that it’s impossible to do it all. You have to pick one thing you are going to rock at that day, and that is OK. When you are someone like myself, with a lot of hobbies and interests, and motivation to “do it all,” you have some struggles with that concept, but I’m a work in progress.
I just know that if I don’t prioritize and make myself one, I will crash and burn across every single facet of my life, and I’m not willing for that to be my fate. It has required a lot of work (and to be completely honest, therapy) on my part, but I am starting to see the fog rise ever so slowly above my over-exhausted body. We can all do this, but we are all different, which means we just have to find the right equation that works well to specifically balance us.
What have you found that works?