Yes, you read that write. The title of this post is not “How to make work-life balance work”. It’s “How to make work-life imbalance work”. And the reason I wanted to write about that isn’t because I have a magic answer (sorry!) but because this is something I am trying to figure out right now. I figured more than a few of you guys have been there, so maybe this can be a virtual brainstorming session?
Next week I am flying to San Francisco for two days and then straight from there to Austin for the SXSW Interactive Conference (anyone going?). The San Francisco trip came up at the very last minute (I literally just booked the last seat on a flight out) and as hard as I tried I could not figure out how come home for at least a day in between. Both of these are must-do trips for work (for a bunch of reasons) and as the result, I will be traveling for more than a week. I’ve had varying degrees of travel required for work since I had my kiddo but this will be the longest period of time that I’ll be away.
My daughter will be absolutely fine — knowing this is a huge benefit of having done this working mom thing for more than six years now. My husband is a great dad and we’re lucky to also have my parents nearby. I’ve just arranged with them to take our daughter for the weekend when I’ll be away to give my husband a break, her some extra fun, and me a little less guilt about being away for so long. I’ve also just cleared half of my day for when I am back and told her that I’ll pick her up from school for an afternoon of mom-daughter fun. Words like make pottery, sushi, ice cream and presents were used and she is beyond herself with excitement.
To make the week easier for my husband, I’ve planned out the meals for the week and will make most of them before I leave. (He claims I don’t need to do this and he is probably right, but it’s one of those things I feel compelled to do. Cooking is one way I deal with my working mother guilt, silly or not.) I’ve got a great team at work and I’m confident they can hold down the fort while I am gone. But at the risk of sounding selfish, the one person for whom I’ve not figured out a more balanced plan for this coming week is me.
Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes a business trip can feel like a mini-vacation and I’m the first to tell you that you should try to treat it as such. But not when I’m going to spend the next few days getting our home stuff ready for it (the cooking/organizing pre-trip firestorm) or when it’s a really long trip that involves red-eye flights and lots of important and stressful meetings. For me, this upcoming week is all about work-life imbalance… tilted very much towards work. To whine a little more, I’ll be missing my favorite Zumba and yoga classes, dinner with a friend, and family movie night which is one of my favorite things. Ever.
OK, no more whining. This will be a really tough week but I will survive and things will be back to a slightly less tilted work-life imbalance soon. I did say that I wanted to brainstorm in this post about ways to deal with work-life imbalance and I do have one suggestion (for myself for this coming week and for all other stressed out moms). It is impossible to have any sort of balance in a given day between work stuff, family stuff, chores stuff, your stuff, and so on. And perhaps not even in a given week. But I think the key is to think of longer time chunks: This week is going to be all about work, so next week I am going to carve out more time for my kiddo and perhaps the week after, stuff my working mom guilt you know where and focus on some “me” time. We can’t have it all at the same time, but perhaps we can have the important things that we care about over some period of time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts so please sound off in the comments. How do you deal with work-life imbalance, particularly when it’s very imbalanced? When you have a ton of work to do and can’t spend as much time with your kids or get stuff done at home? Or when your kids require more of you and you need to let work and your time slide? What’s your work-life imbalance prescription?