Work-Life Balance Resources

So where do we start on our journey to achieving a balanced life?

In an effort to further understand work-life balance, I wrote in my last post that I stumbled across the Work Life Balance Centre [www.worklifebalancecentre.org]. There, I assessed my own life against their interactive ‘Life Wheel’, and this is what I found:

My Life Wheel as of September 2016
My Life Wheel as of September 2016

Life Wheel: How it works

You highlight eight areas of your life and score them from 1 (not happy) to 10 (very happy). So, here are my ‘life areas’ and why I scored the them in the way I did:

  • Starting at the top, Work: Obviously not an area I’m happy with. I want to work, earn money, develop in a specialty that I find interesting and apply myself. I like quantitative results but this is completely lacking currently and something I’m working on changing. Currently, though, it’s a very lonely 3. 
  • Household: 4. I mean, who LOVES cleaning? Who is ever happy doing that!? I guess if I could afford a cleaner, that would be a much higher score. But alas, it’s up to me to do the tidying, laundry, cleaning, cooking, washing up. Gardening and DIY I rarely find the time to do these days. But they’re so overdue that it’s gotten to a point where I’m very good at ignoring it… Again, if only we had the finances to get all the renovation work done to get it to a point where we can ‘interior design’ it, then I’m probably be much more content… Ah, how I hate money…! :-[
  • Moving on to Relationships: I have to admit, other aspects like household and parenting have been taking over my life a little that I’ve been somewhat neglecting my husband. I hadn’t actually thought or realised it up until I did the Life Wheel assessment, though, so it’s something that I’ve taken notice of and will work on!
  • Clearly, I put a lot of my time and effort into being a parent and looking after Dragon – and I’m happy with that input. Mostly. Often, I feel tired and low energy but I still give that aspect as much as I can. and if I can’t, my husband does and I’m grateful and love observing their bond, too. It is good to take the back seat occasionally.
  • Extended family (3). By this I mean my parents and sister. And some close members beyond that, but primarily my ‘close family’ when I was growing up until I started my own family. I really, really wish they were closer. I’m in the UK, they’re in Germany, and I see them AT MOST 3 times a year. Since having Dragon, it’s starkly obvious that family support close-by is SO invaluable. And I miss them dearly. My sister also has her own family now and it’s a shame that the relationship between Dragon and his cousin are built mostly over FaceTime.
  • Oh how I long to Travel! Most definitely an area that’s neglected and we’re working on that. Having a house in need of improvement, a toddler and family abroad definitely puts a bit of a damper on the freedom to travel. The list is long and I do wonder when the time will come when we can see a bit of the world again… Score, 2.
  • Friendship has improved since our move back down south from Scotland. I don’t see them as often as when I was living in London, but I cherish the moments more, set time aside for phone calls, and the time we do get to spend together are more memorable, quality moments. Or maybe it’s just part of growing up, who knows. But I feel good about the friends in my life, the level of involvement. But why it’s a 5? Because we are now part of a new community and I would like to build more friendships locally, become part of this community. So there is certainly still room for improvement.
  • We always think we could use more Me, Leisure and Relaxation time, don’t we? I do think I get a decent amount physically, but I’m unable to shut off my brain. It’s always buzzing. Especially in a house that requires work. So taking the time to go to gym, for walks, meditate, etc. is important and I’m working on that. Even treated myself to the ‘Hygge‘ book, so there! It’s already moving upwards and it’s a high 4.

So you’ll see there that it’s far from a perfect circle on the 10 scale. I’m hard to please, huh? Or maybe I’m hard on myself and have high expectations? It’s probably both… But having made this assessment is already giving me a kind of focus. I want to do better. I want to achieve more and I’m taking small steps towards making that happen. It feels good.

I would encourage you all to give it a try. And then let me know? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Anna x

Returning to Work?

I had grand visions of blogging, an outlet, a diary, somewhere where I can vent my thoughts on the mundane everyday, my saviour. In the long-term, I had also hoped that it would provide me with a source of income that would allow the sort of work-life balance that is still mostly absent in the UK workforce, preventing many mothers from returning to work, if they wished. I am one of those mums. Returning to work, for us, meant high childcare costs and weighing out the options, it seems ludicrous for me to work, be away from my child, for the sake of spending all earnings on childcare costs. Who can possibly afford £90/day!? It seemed daft and as much as I needed the occasional break, especially without any family immediately around – which is the case for many of us these days! – I decided I’d stay home.

Then circumstances had us moving a few times, which, frankly, meant that it was probably good I wasn’t working!

In his short life, Dragon has moved a grand total of 4 times. The last one was particularly tough and 4 months later, he still misses his friends. But on the bright side, he has started school and plenty of friends and distractions are helping him move on and settle here. This is meant to be it now. No more moves. Put down roots. Our forever home. That’s in need of total renovation, but you know, you can’t have it all at once. Life happens in stages, over time. How boring would it be otherwise? It’s a story, right?

So my story picks up here, where we’re settling into a new community, away from friends, teeny bit closer to the in-laws. With Dragon off to school, my husband doing an epic commute to London everyday, it’s time for me to return to work. Except that’s just it. It’s been 5 long years. LOOOOONG years. Where do you even start? You’ve created a whole new person since the last time you touched your CV! Back in the day, churning out mean presentations for senior stakeholders seemed like I had reached the next promotion, top of my world-type stuff. HA! Wait till you have kids, right!? Your whole presence, meaning, values, ethos, priorities, your essence and CORE gets knocked sideways and you start seeing life through a different lens. Remember I had considered returning to work when Dragon was 9 months? I had such itchy feet; I couldn’t wait! Surely I was more than “just a mum”, watching this tiny tot, feeding it, keeping him safe, entertaining him, cuddling him, and all those things? Back then, my worth had to be somewhat substantiated by a monthly paycheck. I was confused, as many new mums are. Thrown in the deep end, hoping not to drown. Except now I long to stay at home. Of course now I miss those things. They seem like a lifetime ago because this tiny person in only four years has mastered SO MANY incredible things! And it makes you proud beyond words. I’ve come to appreciate the little things, the conversations, this person you’ve made and had such a huge influence over, who still comes to you for comfort and cuddles (the BEST!), with a cheeky sense of humour, who gets your weird train of thought and quirks, and has nothing but admiration for. And those little moments, the sum of all those, fills the time so much.

But you may say, they’re off to school, you have pretty much the whole day to yourself: What do you do?

For a start, house keeping, DIY, errands, school-runs, managing contractors around home improvement projects, household budgeting, etc.

There’s the rub. If I were to return full-time, all those jobs would be pushed onto the ‘free time’ around work. I’d see less of my family, more stress, Dragon in wrap-around care at school, rushed dinners, and overall, poorer quality of life. This leaves, for me, part-time or flexible roles, but I’m finding more and more, that unless you were previously in some form of employment that you can return to, they are incredibly hard to come by. Work in retail is a no-no; you can kiss your weekends good-bye. Why is it that unless I sacrifice the quality of my family life entirely, I’m not able to secure a job that would utilise my skills and knowledge – surely valuable assets to a company even on a part-time or flexible basis?

A work-life balance that suits most family is almost non-existent in the UK. The more I research, the more I’m finding that society is built very much on family-unfriendly fundamentals. Competent, intelligent women are staying at home and unable to contribute to the economy because of a basic lack of opportunities. Blogging has filled a small gap but that’s become so saturated that websites are falling into the depths of forgottenness. (Plus, the techy, maintenance aspects of keeping a blog/website are a true pain in the behind and off-putting.) But that aside, why is such a huge population almost entirely neglected? There are willing people out there looking for work! Why is it not the norm to accommodate a healthy work-life balance – a life where children don’t feel neglected, parents aren’t constantly under stress and pressure and actually able to spend more quality time with family, whether working or not? Why should it be such a punishment to want to work? Why should work be at the expense of family life, and not in parallel? Why isn’t there generally a more sympathetic attitude towards families and wanting to spend time with them?

I’m absolutely baffled but also enthused to try and shift this notion. It shall become a kind of mission to empower everyone to find their work-life balance and lobby companies and government to create a happier country, that shall benefit the economy and ultimately everyone as a whole. And maybe we all shall become more accustomed to a hygge life.

My first stop: The Work Life Balance Centre. http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org/

And in the meantime, I shall stick to volunteering 😉

 

A x