Fighting for paid maternity leave. Wishing you had more vacation time. Being able to shut off everything work-related once you are home. These are all just a few fantasies of your average working American. Is work-life balance really achievable?
I have a friend whose husband comes from Germany. I got the pleasure to interview him for a cross-cultural class assignment for one of my graduate courses. I learned a lot about his country and working customs, including their take on work-life balance. I became somewhat annoyed when I heard that not only do mother’s get paid maternity leave, but that they get it for 18 weeks. On top of that, the father also gets the same paternity leave benefits.
I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to move to Europe! I had unpaid leave for only 6 weeks (who could afford to be out any longer?) and I actually only got 5 weeks with my daughter.
But… we learn to live with what we’ve got, and it is probably just a little unrealistic for me to pick up and move to Europe just for the maternity benefits! After all, this is just one of many work-life balance issues that we face.
The reason I bring paid maternity leave to light is because I know that having my daughter (that’s her in the photo!) was a turning point in my life, career wise. It was really the first time I had to worry about work-life balance. I am still on my journey to find that perfect balance, but I thought I would share what I am doing thus far…
Routine, routine, routine
I have noticed that developing a daily routine helps me to organize my time better. I am more efficient at work so that I can be present with my family when I am at home. Having a routine has also helped me have something to look forward to, because I know that at 5:00 I get to go pick up my daughter and that I will be able to give my undivided attention to her for the rest of the evening.
This goes hand in hand with routine. By consistency I mean making sure that your routine isn’t just during the week. Work-life balance doesn’t just mean work and family… we all know that you have to keep up with groceries, cooking, housework… yada yada yada. Use your time on your weekends wisely and work with your partner, family, or friends to help you out. This consistency of a routine will help your child (and your sanity) and ensure that you are able to get done other duties.
I really like to think that I try to schedule some memorable things to do with my daughter each week. Spending time with her is one thing, but quality time is what will matter in the end. Get a membership to the local children’s museum, sign your child up for a sport (and be actively involved), or just have a day each week that you take them to the park, or to get ice cream. These small gestures will be the most memorable for both them and you.
Make time for your spouse too!
Be sure to schedule out dates with your spouse. This is one we all know to do, but often just don’t do it! It is easy to put them on the back burner when you are trying to juggle everything else, but it is important to put them in your schedule.
BONUS: Have someone watch the kids while you and your spouse have an at home cleaning date… kill two birds with one stone! But be sure to make it fun and “memorable.” Cherish each other!
I know, I know, all of this is easier said than done. But it is definitely a necessity to keep your sanity. So, start your work-life balance journey and take the step to a happier, healthier you. Did someone say new years resolution?