As mothers, the fullness of our lives can inspire and energize as much as it can overwhelm us. We are parents, spouses, friends, caregivers of elderly relatives, workers and volunteers in our communities. Family and personal time interrupts work, and work interrupts family and personal time. We yearn for a sense of balance in our lives, yet balance often seems elusive. Balance suggests a state of equilibrium, which in our fast-paced life seems an impossible goal.
Perhaps balance, in the narrow sense, is the wrong goal. In a recent Globe and Mail article, Craig Chappelow, of the Centre for Creative Leadership, suggests that the traditional model of work-life balance as a scale with both sides equal doesn’t work today. It’s more about integration than balance. This approach seems to better reflect the continuously changing demands we face in work and in our personal lives. The focus then is on the boundaries and transitions from one to another. Chappelow suggests it requires some self-analysis – looking at our behaviours, how we identify with our different roles, and our sense of control as we manage the boundaries between work and family — and has developed a tool, the Work Life Indicator to assist.
A recent study by Canadian Mental Health suggests that 58% of Canadians report “overload” from the many roles we play in life. But we must also make room in our lives for taking care of our own physical and mental well-being. They offer a free Work Life Balance quiz and some tips to create a greater sense of balance.
However we approach managing our time, and whatever tools and resources we incorporate to help us, it starts with each of us individually taking responsibility for our state of mind. Often, as mothers, we put ourselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to care-giving. We think it selfish to put ourselves at the top of the list. But, we need to remember that we are better able to care for others when we are happy and healthy. Just as in the pre-flight emergency reminders where we are instructed to first apply our own oxygen masks before we can help others, we need to first take care of our own wellness in order to have the resources and energy to care for others.