The Question I get asked more than anything else...
As a working mum of three under three, the question I get asked most commonly by close friends and many of our followers is "How do you balance it all." It's easy to assume that the juggle of work, kids and home maintenance looks seamless and some what glamorous, with the whole girl boss movement having its moment - and I say that cynically because many who promote this 'girl boss' identity fail to show the inner workings of how they manage to achieve that girl boss life. From the snaps of the home workout, to the nursery drop-off, to the quick breakfast meeting, to the office, then back to pick-ups, then cute cookie-making, and throw in a side of painting - yes, it all looks so idyllic and instagram-worthy. The truth is any mum who is juggling the demands of kids, work and hands-on parenting, knows that it is somewhat chaotic and even on the days which are seamless (those few glorious rare AF days), the amount of precision planning represents that of a military operation.
Firstly, let's debunk this myth of "balancing it all." In the three years and four months since holding this working-mum role, I have learnt through a series of burnouts and hard moments, that a) there is no such thing as balance and b) balance is not what you want.
Yes - you heard right. Inevitably, some areas of your life will take precedent depending on the circumstances of your life at that particular time. There have been days that I've been forced to stay in the office all day, there have been days I haven't left my home left my PJs or even left my bed, because juggling three kids has been seriously hard work. The challenge of being a parent and still trying to have a life outside of motherhood - one where you work, work-out and still maintain some sort of social human contact with the outside world, for me comes down to this one question: what are your negotiables?
Now let me explain. There are certain things in my life that I absolutely will not sacrifice - work being one of them and one-on-one time with my kids daily doing something fun, being another. These non-negotiables make up not just my happiness, but my identity, my fulfilment and my purpose. On the flip side, there are things in my life I consider 'negotiable' i.e. I don't need to do it daily, or perhaps even weekly, negotiables for me include exercise and socialising. These variables will change throughout your life depending on the stage of life you're in, and in order to live a life that is in alignment with who you are and what you want, you need to intentionally structure your day in order to encompass your negotiables and non-negotiables. The structuring of that and deciding what deserves more or less of your time, is the hard part.
In his book, The One Thing, Gary Keller argues that you cannot live an extraordinary life or achieve extraordinary results if you are trying to achieve "balance". By definition, excellence is achieved when you are 'extra good' at something, and to be 'extra good' requires 'extra effort'. Some days, being a parent is the only thing I need to be, and I see that when I notice changes in my kids behaviour, particularly an increase in tantrums. Sometimes focusing on my company is what needs to be done and sometimes focusing on my relationships requires more of my time. This daily reminder of the need to invest extra effort into the task or situation i have at hand in order to achieve a better result, is what helps me maintain a consistent level of peace in relation to things I know I inevitably have to miss out on. Like the Queen (Oprah) always says, 'You can have it all, but not all at once' - one time louder, for those at the back.
Whenever work and motherhood is involved, as much as one tries to juggle the demands of both, one will always fall behind at times. And that's where the over-compensation comes in. The need to do those trips to the park, the need to do that painting activity even though you've been backwards and forwards across town managing pick-ups and drop-offs and the office. The need to have that one-on-one bonding time is ever greater, and that's why often, these working mothers who look like they're juggling it all can often receive questions, sometimes in awe, sometimes in disbelief, and sometimes in confusion, as to how they manage to “do it all”.
What you do not see, is the infrastructure and delegation in place needed to manage conflicting demands of being a parent and a working mother. Despite taking my children to the office daily as much as I can (it's way more maddening and chaotic than it looks), I am grateful everyday to the nanny I have at home who allows me to have a few hours a day where I cannot take my child to the office. The infrastructure that I speak of is something that you can work on, as anything that requires planning and delegation can usually be done through Phone Apps and Spreadsheets. I've also come up with several life hacks that make my life run much smoother after periods of trial and error and lots of burnout. You can find all these in my blog post here on how to make your life run smoother as a mum. There is simply no shortcut around being supremely organised as a working mum.
So to conclude - mamas, the truth is there is no balance, and accepting that is your first step towards a more enjoyable life. The key, is to structure your day to encompass things you strive for, things that fill up the deepest parts of you, and accepting what falls short. Everything in life is a choice, it is not about not having the time to do something it is about making the time to do something you want to do. Some days, I revel in the idea of staying home all day with my kids, other days I cannot run out of the door fast enough to spend an entire day in the sanctuary of my office. Because that is life with three under three, a business, two brands to manage and a house to take care of - ever-changing, chaotic, hard and yet so deeply fulfilling if you embrace it in all its messyness.
So my suggestion to anyone reading this mother or not - get a pen and paper and sit and think about what your negotiables and non-negotiables are within the confines of your own reality, the resources you have, the hours in the day, and intentionally design your week, to encompass all the things you want to do in order to create a life that is meaningful to you.