Work-Life Balance – Striking that Balance

Hello, I’m back again after 7 months. What a whirlwind of a time since my last post! In the end, it didn’t take me long to find a suitable part-time role in my chosen profession. The pay was ridiculously low, but it gave me the flexibility to readjust to work life with minimal impact on Dragon as he settled into school life. I tried to negotiate on my salary, but instead I was offered the flexibility to fit my 22.5 contracted hours per week around Dragon’s schedule, and that suited me just fine to achieve my ultimate work-life balance.

I was also clear in my mind during my job search that I did not want to just return to any job for the sake of having a job and earning money again. That was not the exercise. I wanted to make sure that whatever role I stepped back into would be the right one from a career perspective. It needed to provide a challenging and educational environment in which I could develop professionally – and amazingly, they were keen to employ me on the basis that I could develop a marketing strategy for them from scratch and apply all the theoretical elements from my Masters degree. *yay*

(Sidenote: This would all be so much easier to write about if I didn’t write about it all in retrospect…)

In parallel, in an effort to boost my CV and employability, I had decided to volunteer. I became involved with a local charity centred around education concerning all things sustainability, and the PTA at Dragon’s school. Both appealed to interests of mine with like-minded people. People with a green ethos, and hard-working parents keen to provide the best for their children. From that standpoint, and living where I live now, I think this is the most settled I’ve ever felt. I enjoy living here where people smile at your or greet you as you go for a walk; friendly faces all around, walking their dogs along the shore. Then there’s the focus on green living – it isn’t just some latest fad that’s cool to be part of. Instead, people are genuinely interested in growing their own organic vegetables, reducing their carbon footprint by buying local, that sort of thing. The parents are from all walks of life and admittedly, they have probably been the most difficult to get to know. The school run isn’t sufficient to get to know someone intimately. However, Dragon is thoroughly enjoying his school and thriving – making friends of all age groups, boosting his confidence even more. And through his friendships with his school mates and consequently my involvement with the PTA, has it become possible for me to integrate with the school community. Now there’s the rub. As I became involved, it also started eating up more of my time. I’m loyal and committed – sometimes to my detriment. With time, the initial 2h for two volunteer roles has slowly increased. Then, with the eco-project, they’ve asked me to come on board on a part-time basis! Amazing. So I now invest 8h a week there along with my part-time 22.5h work.

I like to keep busy. And so far it has been fine. I started lift-sharing with another local parent and that has enabled me to fit in the hours most suitable to my timetable. It looks something like this currently…

30.5h work week

But things at my main job have not transpired the way it was discussed. Being the first person my manager has ever line-managed means that he’s figuring out his style. And it’s not a good one. His leadership and knowledge thereof are completely lacking and instead of being almost an equal – his only advantage being that he’s already been there 4 years or so – he sees me like an assistant / skivvy. Having expressed my outrage to his boss at the fact that I’d shifted over a tonne – literally, a TONNE – of boxes, whilst he comfortably sat at his desk without so much as an offer to help me, I’m awaiting progress, although not hopeful or optimistic about that fact. There’s a basic level of human decency missing that unless instilled at a young age, is too late to teach a 26-year-old.

Having said all this, I’m now exploring alternative options. One option being, yet again, considering the full-time route. Are there any employers out there willing to acknowledge that working out childcare is bloody hard!? Working hours needn’t be so rigid; a little flexibility and understanding may actually go a long way – a loyal, efficient, hard working work force that may have, just somehow, sussed the all-important work-life balance. A young family, without the support of relatives in the near vicinity, have a lot to juggle. Does the parent risk collecting his/her child at 6pm, to only put them into bed for 7:30pm? There’s a heap of interaction that goes on between school hours and bedtime that the working parents inevitably miss out on just to make ends meet.

So let’s do a comparative study, using the Work Life Balance chart, shall we?

Categories are as before:

  1. Work
  2. Household
  3. Relationship
  4. Parent/Child
  5. Extended family
  6. Travel
  7. Friendship
  8. Leisure & Relaxation
My Life Wheel as of September 2016

May 2017:

Full-time work – a look into the future:

Future Work-Life Balance

Flexible work – a look into the future:

Clearly, if I’m earning well in my job, have flexible working hours to not entirely restrict my home life, and can earn a somewhat decent wage to boot, I’d be well on my way to creating a perfect outer circle!

You probably will have gathered that my mind follows a very logical process – so thanks for sticking with me whilst I worked this all out for myself! I really needed to be clear in my mind before any interviews and negotiations, you know? Also, whenever I find myself in sticky decision-making situations, Ruth Chang’s words pop into my head. If jobs were a like-to-like comparison across a single criteria, the decision would be easy to make. But why they are so difficult is because you have to assess what inherently is most important to you and where you want to be going. And once you answer that questions for yourself truthfully, without judgement and just pure acceptance, will this process become easy/ier.