Even just the word “balance” seems to add an unnecessary pressure on us to picture some mystical land far, far away where EVERYTHING is perfect and working like a well oiled machine. It may sound amazing, but this idealistic world is just that- an idea.
So, can’t we all have our own ideas about what balance looks like for ourselves? I think so! And though I think we should all embrace our own journeys and accept that everyone operates differently, I still believe in learning and being inspired by our communities and other like-minded mamas. That’s why, I pulled together some of my favorite people to see what they consider balance… and maybe even a time when they didn’t have it at all… because hey, we are all human, right?
Meet our panel of mama entrepreneurs, who have been finding balance in their lives… no matter what that looks like for them! Veronica Armstrong, the shop owner and business strategist, behind Gabriella’s Designs is a mom, wife and “maker and lover of science fiction and board games”, creating adorable, custom outfits for little ladies. Julia Slike, creative director and business coach for her company, Julia Slike & Co has been a “souloprenuer” for 11 years now and has a passion for bright colors, high energy and enjoying life. Ardelia Lee runs her copy writing and content strategy business, Ardelia Lee Strategies, while having a love for science fiction and fantasy books. The strategist mama behind Mother Like a Boss, Kendra Hennessy, is a homemaker extraordinaire and Gilmore Girl enthusiast! And finally, Jen Baggett, a certified coach, runs her business Catchlight Consulting, LLC. while having a love for all things creative, especially photography and birthday parties for her girls.
What does balance look like for you, in your life and business?
VS: Balance means flexibility. You aren’t exactly in control of your time with little ones around, so setting a strict schedule doesn’t happen. However, if I can flexibly take my day and spent a good portion focused on my home and my daughter, then I feel less guilty if I take some time to focus on business for a chunk of time too.
JS: My husband and I are both self-employed and work A LOT! We have a cabin that we “escape” to on the weekends as soon as he gets off work on Saturdays. We have no cable, just movies and we’re not supposed to be on electronics there. The weeks are pretty crazy but that’s when we unwind as a family.
AL: For me, having a balanced work life means that I get my work tasks done for the day and I get my house tasks done for the day. It’s not always a 50/50 split, where I have 2 work tasks and 2 house tasks. Sometimes I have 4 work tasks and let my house slide for a day or two, then I’ll take some time away from work to circle back and take care of my house and spend extra time with my kids.
KH: I don’t view balance as everything being equal. Instead, I think of my work life balance like feet walking. You can’t walk with your feet being equal at all times. In order to get ahead, you have to put more weight on one side and then switch. That is exactly how I run my house and business. Sometimes, one side needs more weight to help move me forward.
JB: For me, balance is prioritization and knowing when to say no. When I started really looking at what was important and putting those things first, it made it much easier to say no to the things that weren’t as important. My life gets really out of balance when I say “yes” to everything.
Obviously, if balance is different for everyone, then how they keep the balance in their lives is sure to differ as well.
What’s your “secret sauce” to keeping that balance?
VA: Activities and accountability. My daughter is at an age now, almost 4, where I literally tell her to stop my work time. If she watches x amount of TV, she then tells me and I can stop working. It’s hard to say no to your child when they’re ready for you to play again and be present. I also like to find ways to balance them both together in the day with activities. She can play Play Dough or paint while I crank out some work and we both feel productive because we can chat about what we are doing and still be effective.
JS: Our Cabin or we’d never stop working!
AL: Being aware of how much time I’m spending where. I’ve started using Toggl to track my work time, and it’s really helped me understand where my time is going.
KH: An excellent support system. If you don’t have one, I urge you to find one through groups, either online or in person. My family, my husband and my biz besties are what make balancing everything so much easier.
JB: Constantly revisiting what is and is not important to me. It helps me keep focus on what is really important and keeps me on the right path. I am always asking myself why I am doing what I am doing. Is it something for me and my family, or am I doing it just to keep up with someone else or to keep up appearances.
And sometimes, because we’re all just doing our best in this crazy thing called life… we get thrown off balance.
Listen, we’re all human… tell us about a time that you DIDN’T HAVE BALANCE:
VA: When my daughter came to me, begging me to put my phone down and stop working. I’m sad to admit it’s happened more than once, but it’s the biggest rude awakening I have needed at times.
JS: Ummm… every day!
AL: The end of 2016 was brutal for me. I was waking up at 5 a.m. and going to sleep at 11 p.m. I worked 4 or 5-hour days in addition to taking care of my girls full time, and I wasn’t seeing a great return on my effort. I was grouchy, negative, and tired all the time. My husband got tired of it (and of how much I was working) pretty quickly.
KH: When I was shifting to my new business (the model that it is now.) I put a LOT of time and effort into it and looking back, I don’t think I put as much energy and effort into my family for those months. I also focused on many of the “wrong” things, a mistake a learned from.
JB: At the beginning of last year I was SO out of balance. I was pouring everything I had into my job and everything else was suffering, I was eating bad, not exercising, and totally not present for my kids, husband or my friends. I was also starting a 6-month long training program and I felt like I was always behind in that as well. I was so crazy at work that I let it seep into all of my life.
But we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and get back on track, because- hey! We’re mamas and that’s what we do!
How did you get back into the swing of things after that!?
VA: That’s when I started telling her that she could help Mommy do her work (doing activities in my office with me, helping pack orders etc.) or she can do a special activity like watch a movie and then come tell me when it’s done so I can stop working. Giving her some partnership in it has been so huge for our relationship while I build my business and have her home.
JS: I found that sticking to the appointments in my planner (I have an hourly one) help me keep on track. For instance, this week I have just 16 hours “free” between 7am-7pm all the other hours are booked. I have to be diligent where I spend my time. If I only have 1 hour to get work done I can’t be farting around on Facebook!
AL: It was a combination of experiencing a mindset shift and taking 2 weeks away from my business. My mindset shift gave me the confidence and professionalism I had lacked before, and my time away gave me some important perspective. I realized that self-care and taking some time to rest was incredibly important to ensuring I did my best work.
KH: I took some time away from the business (just a few days) and really put an action plan in place. When was I going to work? When was I going to spend time with my kids and husband? When would I take time for me? Also outsourcing and hiring a nighttime babysitter a night or two a week helped a lot! I was able to get focused work done easily.
AL: I asked for help and I started to re-prioritize. I worked with my coach to make sure I knew what was most important to me so I could choose what worked for me. I also realized I was putting pressure on myself to do everything and do it perfectly. That realization helped tremendously as it helped me let go of trying to do EVERYTHING!
Wow! I knew balance was different for everyone, but I truly love seeing it explained from so many different points of view. When we give ourselves permission to find “balance” in our own way, our lives suddenly seem easier… better. We breathe a little easier, we find a rhythm that works for us and we enjoy both our work and home lives that much more. Balance may be different for every working mama… but the feeling of knowing we have found it? That feels amazing to all of us!