Work/life balance/juggle/ebb-and-flow

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Image source

I’m living a bit of a conundrum at the moment.

I recently(ish) decided I was sick of working from home. I was sick of feeling like I should be with the kids when I’m working, and I was just as sick of feeling like I should be working or having my mind elsewhere when I was with the kids.

I romanticised the idea of going to work. Of going to an office that wasn’t at home, of not having my computer and proofs and drafts and red pens scattered all over the dining room table and of not having my work encroach upon my family life.

The realist in me knew that any job I had would be in my mind a lot of the time anyway. That’s just who I am. I give things my all, and my work is no exception. But turning a computer off, leaving an office and travelling home on a train? Those things would give me time to switch my focus. Then, when I’m home, I can be all about my family. Right?

So I applied for a few jobs. I even met with some recruiters and had a real-life interview with some real-life people who were really actually looking for a real-life person to come and work for them. The job sounded great, and it was for a cause I really believe in. I tried not to, but I got my hopes up.

I didn’t get the job. And I tried to tell myself that I didn’t mind that much, and it wasn’t meant to be, and it’ll happen when it’s meant to happen. But I was really disappointed. I was disappointed with the situation, with not getting to do this particular work for this particular organisation, and with myself – my first interview in seven years had been a fizzer. Boo for me.

I took a break from applying for jobs. Then, just as I was gearing up to try again, new work-from-home offers started coming in. Sponsored posts. Social media campaigns. New clients. A new writing opportunity.

It wasn’t a flood. But it was bigger than a trickle. It brought working from home back to the front of my mind. It made me think about better ways to manage the balance. The juggle. The ebb and flow of work and family co-existing in one space.

And here I am. Still in my conundrum. Because I Just. Don’t. Know. What. I. Want. To. Do.

You might have noticed it’s been quieter around here than usual. I’ve found it difficult to come to this online home of mine and write blog posts about the usual things – grammar tips, music group programs, quirky ditties, even random acts of kindness – because I. Just. Don’t. Know. What. I. Want. To. Do.

I remember a line from Kelly Exeter’s first book, Your Best Year Ever:

When a decision isn’t clear-cut, when we’re agonising between two options, it’s often because the potential difference in future happiness between the two is tiny.

I’m trying to keep this in mind. Perhaps the reason I. Just. Don’t. Know. What. I. Want. To. Do. is that, in my mind, there’s not much difference between the two options.

That might sound silly – obviously, working from home is very different from working for an organisation. Travel, child care, pay, time with family – these are just some of the changes I’d face.

But perhaps there would be no difference in my future happiness. Perhaps I’m just as happy doing either, and I already know it on some level. I love writing, so where I am doing it doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be in my head while I’m with my family, and my family is going to be in my head while I’m writing.

And so I. Just. Don’t. Know. What. I. Want. To. Do.

I don’t know. I just don’t know. So I continue on my little way, just doing, still not knowing, and hoping it will sort itself out. Because that happens, right?

Right?

 

How do you balance your commitments? Any tips, suggestions or anecdotal musings to share?

Comments

  1. says

    Oh geez I have absolutely no helpful hints because I’m in a similar conundrum. I feel like it would be easier to go back to my old work but it fills me with dread- juggling daycare, having to be somewhere actually dressed and presentable. But then work at home is quite frustrating too for all the reasons you outline above. Hopefully the right solution will present itself to you?? So frustrating!

  2. says

    Well yes and no. You have the power to sort it out yourself, make some changes so you’re happier with your at home work situation. But that’s easier said than done with small kids. As for me, I’m giving myself until the kids are all at school, next year, and THEN I will crank up. Until I am trying to embrace the wonderful opportunity I have to be there for my kids most of the time. Good luck, and there is no answer I reckon. Just only more questions.

    • says

      Yes, that’s true. My little man doesn’t start school for another 2.5 years. But the year after next he’ll have two days of kinder, so it’ll be easier (?!) to make decisions then. Keep treading water for now, I think. x

  3. says

    Wish I had the answers for you but it sounds like it’s something only you can work through and decide. It’s such a tricky and in ideal thing! I hope the answers come and you find contentment and happiness x

  4. says

    Can relate to all of this. I do wonder if adding an actual employer into the mix doesn’t just put more pressure on you and your family, providing you with something else to feel guilty about. Perhaps see what temp jobs are going or find a co-working office you can camp out and do your freelance work outside the home for a short space of time to see how you go?

    • says

      Hmmm, good point about the employer. But I don’t think so. I’d just have one source for all of that instead of spreading it across my clients! I like the office space idea. Just need to back myself. x

  5. says

    I used to really appreciate the division between work and home when we lived in Sydney and my kids were little. These days I romanticise about working from home (as a teacher, it’s impossible). Between the farm which is a never ending job, and the kids, I would love work with a little more flexibility (eg being able to go to school assemblies or help out during shearing). I’m working on a plan to slowly back out of external employment and work more on the farm. There will be hard parts about this plan too, but I’m looking forward to it.

  6. says

    That’s a hard one Em, and any answer that fits me is unlikely to fit you or anyone else. I have been struggling with freelance writing, working and finding the time to be a husband and father, and not, I feel, giving the right amount of time to any of them.

    I have tried a system where I set out X night for one thing, Y for another and so on, but it is difficult to follow, as life intervenes, and also because writing, while an exercise in discipline, is also a passion – which strikes when it will.

    So I have no answer sorry, but I’m all ears (well, in the blogging context, all eyes).

    Cheers,
    Giles.

  7. says

    My ultimate goal is to have a local-ish job 3-4 days per week that covers bills, and then 1-2 days per week work for myself from home. Fingers crossed that we might be able to return to a two income household sometime in the next year as well, which would lessen some of the burden I feel when I wish I could work part time.

    • says

      That sounds like a great plan. That’s my ultimate when the kids are both at school. So not yet. Fingers crossed for you!

    • says

      That’s where I’m landing. I also really don’t want to put my little man in care more than I need to. That, more than any other consideration, is what will probably make the decision for me.

  8. says

    Tough one Em, there’s no right answer. Not at all helpful! I’m sorry you didn’t get the job you’d hoped for. I had a similar experience recently and it’s certainly a blow to your confidence!

    • says

      Thank you. It really is, isn’t it? Even though you know it’s just one job, and just one interview panel, and there could have been someone exceptional applying, and that it might have had little to do with you and everything to do with other things. Still a blow.

  9. says

    I’ve just gone the other way – after working for the same organisation for 10 years (with a two year family break) I’ve recently gone out on my own as a freelancer. So far the WFH life is brilliantly living up to my expectations! More time with the kids, less time on the train, more flexibility around how I work… plus we all get a bit of a sleep in which is a BONUS on these cold dreary mornings! In my old job I was working partly from home, but was mainly doing it from the kitchen table so it was a bit of a nightmare. Now I’ve got a proper office set up where I can CLOSE THE DOOR AND GO TO WORK. Makes the world of difference :).

    Good luck with whatever you decide (and just remember that you don’t actually have to decide anything right now). xxx

    • says

      Great to hear tales of the opposite – and great to hear that life is rocking for you! So happy for you. HOORAY for sleep-ins on cold days.
      And you’ve nailed it. I need that separate space that isn’t one end of the dining room table. Straight to the top of the priority list. x

  10. says

    Oh wow, Interestingly this week I wrote about the flip side of this problem and just how hard it is to work out of the home and take care of a house and family. If I had my way I would work from home. I guess it’s just a matter of deciding what works best for you and your family. I’m finding the whole work/home/family juggle just so hard.

  11. says

    I love that quote from Kelly – it makes perfect sense. Does it matter that you don’t know what you want to do? If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (or insert action of choice.) I think that unless one is desperately unhappy (in which case one must take positive action) the universe always delivers at the right time. Maybe that job seemed right but maybe it wasn’t right for you, right now. I had a bit of a meltdown this week because I didn’t know what I wanted to do either, but I realised, that I’m happy doing what I’m doing now, but I got my knickers in a right knot worrying because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So after all that, what I’m saying is, if you’re happy, it’s alright not to know.

  12. says

    Oh Em – this is a tough one. I hated being in that not knowing what to do situation. Made me feel all icky and not at all like myself. I found working from home tough, from a focus point of view. Since I started working in an office I’ve found it much easier to separate work and home/family life. My blog squeezes in between everything else! Whatever you decide, I hope it works for you, makes you happy and keeps you writing here in this lovely space you’ve created xx

    • says

      Thanks Tash. Such a lovely comment. No matter what, this space will still be here. It’s just a matter of how often I’d actually write here! x

  13. says

    I think that working from home needs a very different kind of discipline. I don’t switch off in the same way I did when I worked in an office. I think I will eventually go back to corporate life for that reason and because I love being surrounded by other people. I think the biggest thing with working from home is to set very clear boundaries, make sure those boundaries are clear to your clients and NEVER, EVER break them. You are an incredibly talented, intelligent person so there will ALWAYS be great opportunities for you. It just depends on whether you feel now is the right time to take those opportunities back into an office environment.

    • Emily says

      It does, doesn’t it? And after years of jumping at the computer for as little as 15 or 20 minutes at a time in short grabs of sleep, or when the children were otherwise occupied, sitting for longer almost needs a re-training. And I hear you – I miss the people, too.
      And thank you for the compliments. What lovely things to say. x

  14. says

    In December I left my very safe full time job to focus on freelance work for a while to see if I could make a go of it. I wrote about 12 articles over a couple of months, some of which I am still waiting for payment and publishing by the way… I found I missed the routine of the office, the pay and talking to people about my ideas. I also was not very disciplined, I would have all the time in the world and leave things to the last minute. I think now I have the balance now of a part time gig, plus a day a week to freelance. I write articles that I am interested in now, not for pressure, and am concentrating on a children’s book. You will find your balance!

    • Emily says

      I like the sound of your balance. Well done on having a go at it, and at finding your happy medium. I think I’ll do something similar. Give myself a timeline. Thank you.

  15. says

    It’s a tough one Emily. I’ve had to rearrange my work times a LOT to try and make it work (including sometimes getting up at 5am) because working at home with little kids is no joke. You really can’t do both at the same time but you have the power to organise your day the way you want to which is one benefit. We need more combined childcare/coworking spaces (the only one I know of is in Preston)! If it’s any comfort there is always plenty of chaos before a breakthrough so I’m sure you’re very close. And you might just need more practice with the interviews. Best of luck :-)

    • Emily says

      Combined childcare/coworking sounds interesting! But I feel I’d still be distracted. At least the dishes and the laundry wouldn’t be taunting the back of my head!

  16. says

    Ahh Em. I can totally relate. I just don’t know what I want to do either. I’ve been toying with the idea of a work from home gig and am trying to make that work, but it is a tough decision to leave my well paid and secure job. I’m hoping that the answer will come to me some time before I’m meant to return to work in October. As for you, I have no doubt the right opportunity is just around the corner for you. You are a very intelligent, ambitious and motivated person. Good things will come your way x

    • Emily says

      I love seeing your name pop up all over the web! It seems like it’s going well for you, but it’s hard to tell what it’s really like behind the scenes. In a way, my redundancy was a good thing because I can make the choice without feeling beholden to a particular job.
      And thank you. What lovely things to say. I must have done something wonderful in a former life to have found a friend like you in this one. x

  17. says

    I don’t have any answers for your conundrum (what a funny word that is!). I tend to impulsively do things and then either love it or completely hate it. I suggest you don’t do that lol! Good luck with coming to a decision xx

  18. says

    It sounds like what you are doing now is working for you and your family BUT we all suffer from the grass is greener moments … it’s natural to get a bit antsy and wonder if a change would work better. Even though I love working from home (my kids are full grown though), I still have the odd moment where I remember the “good old days” of going to work in an office …

    • Emily says

      Yes, thanks for the wise words. It is a bit ‘grass is greener’. I know everyone has those moments, in every direction. That’s why I don’t want to rush one way or the other. I think it’s a case of waiting for a job that excites me as much as the other did, and applying then. And having lots of mock interviews in the meantime!

  19. Karin McCormack says

    Someone has probably already mentioned this (& may not work Childcare or $wise) but what about a separate dedicated workspace – eg mini office or studio, shared or otherwise, to continue your current work, but at a dedicated workspace, going to work, maybe be with others work venue?

    • Emily says

      Thanks Karin. I guess that just means backing myself more than I currently do! Funny how sometimes we are our own obstacles. The whole Impostor Syndrome thing.

  20. says

    Oh Em, I get it.
    Well sort of, because I’m not working, but everything I do is always in my head. Today I have given myself the day of studying to spend time with the kids, and I’m thinking about assignments and writing and something else. But when I do something else, I want to be spending time with the kids!
    It’s impossible, and I only hope you can work out something soon. Maybe just go with the open door; that’s usually where I start.

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