I’m just going to start by saying achieving the ideal work life balance is not something I think I have succeeded at yet BUT I am working on it.
I gave up live in nannying as I felt being 26 I was at an age where I needed a bit of separation from work as well as more privacy the added bonus at the time was being able to agree Monday to Friday working hours. I went from doing 60+ hours a week as live in nanny to doing 40 hour weeks Monday to Friday. To start with I thought yes I’ve cracked this work life balance thing. Well it was short lived. I was soon approached by another family who needed about 10 hours help a week which the naive me thought it’s only 10 hours a week of course I’ll help you. Then a third family needed help for about 4 hours a week which again I agreed to. It’s only after a few months of this that I stopped and realised that these jobs on their own are not that much out of the working week but in fact when I looked at the hours I was doing it was in fact a total of 58 hours and yes I had weekends off but sometimes I would be asked to babysit so I was left with little time for myself and the time I did have I didn’t want to do anything as I was tired from working all week. So I had failed to establish a work life balance in this case.
So you would think attempt number two may have worked out better. Well initially it did. I did 36 hours for one family and 4 hours for another making a 40 hour working week. Which was great I finally felt like I had it sussed and sustained this for a year.
Until I discovered an app called Bubble which was a platform for parents and babysitters to connect to each other and at the start I was offered sits quite slowly and infrequently but before long I was getting 2 or 3 every day and having to turn down loads which meant I was now doing maybe 4 or 5 evening sits a week on top of my working week.
Then an opportunity arose through a family I knew to help their friend who had a premature baby who was on oxygen and fed via nasogastric tube. Obviously with my paediatric nursing background I was keen to help them and at the start it was kept quite casual just a few hours here and there but I grew attached to the little boy and the mum became comfortable with me so more and more hours were added. So I was now doing 60 hour weeks with 3 or 4 evening babysits. My free time was disappearing very quickly.
I was then approached by a lovely mum who runs her own company from home called International Elf Service if you have not heard of them you really should check them out. Anyway she wanted to know if I could help her in the run up to Christmas at this point I could only offer weekend help to her which she keenly accepted. Which meant I was basically working 7 days a week with hardly any time to myself some weeks I struggled to find time to have showers and wash clothes. I ended up skipping meals as I never had time to go shopping let alone prepare meals. My energy levels were dwindling and although I honoured all the hours I had committed to everyone I could feel that my abilities to work well and the way I should be were deteriorating.
I knew something had to change. Firstly I set my availability to unavailable on Bubble until after Christmas explaining that I was fully booked and unable to take on anyone else. Which meant for the time being I had my evenings back.
The International Elf Service work is slowly tailing off so I have more time back at weekends.
Which leaves me with just my weekday commitments and although it looks like after Christmas I will be working 60 hour weeks doing 7-7 Monday to Friday I have promised myself I will keep my evenings and weekends free for myself. Obviously from time to time I will do babysitting but I will definitely not take on as much and I will be much more selective.
I guess what I have learnt it that:
1. It is ok to say NO! People will understand and it’s not solely your responsibility to provide childcare to everyone that asks for your help.
This is something I struggle with and I’m sure I will still fall into the trap of guilt and accept the work when In fact I should say no and do something for myself.
2. When people ask you to work or to help them say you need to check your availability and get back to them. This gives you a chance to look at your availability and also look at how much work you have as a hole and if you are happy to give up your free time to help.
Certainly something I do regularly is accept work here and there as it’s just 2 or 3 hours help but then when I stop to look at what my working week will be I realise I have no time for myself.
3. Try and plan activities, classes or social events for your self in advance so that you know you have time for your self booked in. That way when the weekend comes round you have something fun to look forward to instead of more work that creeps in as you had free time and felt guilty saying no.
I have started to use a website called Obby which is great so far I have done a flower arranging class and a bookbinding class. I will definitely be doing more next year.
I think the main thing is to take time to make sure you are allowing time for yourself each week and that you don’t suddenly find yourself working all hours of the week. Most importantly remember it is ok to say no. ☺️
At 29 achieving a work life balance is something I am still aiming for but I feel that this year I have learnt some valuable lessons and hopefully in 2018 I’ll have more time for me, my friends and my family.