The dishes were piling up.
There was wet laundry in the washer, waiting to be moved to the dryer, threatening to mold.
And I nearly forgot to shower.
All of that happened last week when I had five whole days entirely to myself—as in, without my family.
Living the dream
My husband wanted to take a week to go visit his parents and work on an old car they’re giving him. My in-laws wanted to see their granddaughter—and if their son and I came along, that would be OK too. 😉 And I?
I pretty much wanted to stay home and get some work done.
It took me a while to work up the courage — because I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, or overly impose on my mother-in-law (who would have to take care of the kiddo while my husband worked on the car) — but I asked if anyone would care if I stayed home.
And no one minded!
Suddenly, a whole world of possibilities opened up in front of me! FIVE WHOLE DAYS of precious alone time! I’m totally an introvert, so alone time is a blissful necessity for me, and this was just like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one!
Because, don’t get me wrong: I adore my little family. It’s just, they’re always here. (You know that feeling??)
My fellow mom entrepreneurs were wildly jealous. My friends were jealous. “What are you going to do???”
Well, work. But that sounded amazing, frankly! It seems like there’s never enough time to work on my business, so I was really looking forward to having large chunks of uninterrupted time for marketing and other work that needed to be done. And I planned a couple of dinners with friends, getting a massage, going to yoga class. Trying to balance it all out.
Living the reality
The day my husband and daughter left, I got a massage, then came home and cleaned the house and cooked food for my mastermind group, which took up the rest of the afternoon. It was great.
Monday rolled around, and I sat down at the computer at around 7am and didn’t look up until 1pm. Woah. Feeling a little shell-shocked, I decided to spend the afternoon shopping for dresses to wear for my branding photo shoot taking place in two weeks. Walked my feet off at the mall for three hours, came home and ate some dinner, and then continued to work at the computer until 9pm.
Tuesdays are my “regular” work days; my daughter goes to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays right now, and that’s when I get the bulk of my client work done. This time, I thought, I’ll do something nice for myself right off the bat. Rode my bike to a morning yoga class. Came home, showered, then sat down to work…
…And barely moved for the next 10 hours.
Wednesday and Thursday were pretty much the same, because by that point, I was starting to panic that I wasn’t going to accomplish all the MANY goals I had set for myself for the week. And then on Friday, I got up at 5am, got on a plane, and spent the holiday weekend with my family.
What happened to all that balance I’m always so careful to strive for??
Falling in and out of balance
I love my work, so I had this image in my head that five whole days to myself would be like the ultimate balance restoration break. I could work ahead so I wouldn’t feel so crazy when my family was back at home. I could work exactly when I wanted, and do other things I wanted. It would be bliss because I would feel so productive.
But the reality was very different.
I’d never realized it before, but I need my family to provide balance to my work life as much as I need work to balance my family life.
When my family is home, I am forced to live “real life.” Even on my work days, I must get showered and dressed to take my daughter to school. There’s a natural end-point to my work day because I have to pick her up at a particular time.
Working from home, you can always be “at work.” Without the framework of my family routine—work days and non-work days, making a family dinner every night, enjoying coffee with my husband every morning—my work had no boundaries.
And I also found that even when I had practically unlimited hours in the day, there still weren’t enough hours in the day. The first couple of days, because I felt like I had all the time in the world, I meandered around the web a lot. I read a lot of blog posts and articles. They were all educational and work-related. But not having set constraints on my time, I felt like I didn’t have to buckle down and work on the goals I had set for myself.
I once had a yoga instructor tell me that “balance” is not static. In a balance pose in yoga, you’re constantly falling in and out of balance, adjusting, recalibrating. The second you go rigid and still, you fall over.
I think the same can be said of work life balance; it’s not something you “achieve” because the second you stop moving, everything falls apart.
We need the pull of family to balance out the pull of work, and vice versa. Even though sometimes it feels as though that pull will tear us apart, it’s actually harder to be successful at one without the other.
What do you think? Do you try to find that elusive balance, or go with the flow?