I thought I was figuring out work-life balance. I send the kids to school just before 8 am, work like a mad woman until 2:45 pm, and then rush to pick them up, usually late. And that was supposed to be the end of the workday for me so that I could be available to help with homework, make dinner, keep up with the house.
That was the plan.
But then, I started taking on more work. I needed to be able to contribute more financially to the family. With the increased workload, I’d rush to get the kids, speed home from school, throw a snack at them and bark some directions at them, and hop on a phone call or two. I might shut down my computer by 5 pm, or I might continue working later. Then, I’d realize I had not prepared anything for dinner, and I’d totally lose my cool as I tried to create something quick and healthy and delicious… or just order pizza.
I took on more work and it extended from these hours to working in the evenings and through the weekend too, to get it all done. Plus, I was still responsible for doing all the home and family stuff. Not because my husband demanded it, but because that was our arrangement, and I didn’t want to admit that I’d taken on so much work, I could no longer keep up with everything.
In March 2018, I was about 3 breaths away from having a full-on nervous breakdown. I felt like a rubber band about to snap – sure a panic attack would ensue at any moment. I was gaining weight rapidly, my health was in decline, I yelled at my kids all the time, I gave very little to keep my marriage happy. But I pressed on, pretending that I had it all under control.
And then my dad died.
My world came crashing down, and I realized I was no longer “living the dream” but I had found myself in Hell. My whole world was chaos. The children were suffering, my marriage was suffering, my clients certainly weren’t getting my best, and I was falling to pieces.
Something had to give. Immediately. I could no longer work at this rate. I had a total shift in priorities.
Balancing your business with raising a family is no joke. A business is just as needy as kids, but it’s a different kind of neediness. I confess that I used my work as an escape when my kids were little. My work allowed me to be something other than mom, to use my brain in a different way, and engage with actual adults.
Then one day I realized that my little kids are not so little anymore. My youngest is in kindergarten and my oldest just turned 11. I actually want to spend time with them, instead of always looking for a break from them, and enjoy them as people, not just as little kids that need me all the time. While the older two no longer crawl all over me, demanding physical attention, they still need me, just in a different way. They are growing into independent, funny, opinionated, intelligent conversationalists. If their babyhood went by fast, I know these years will go by even faster. And YET, I still have a business to run. My business has grown along with my children and I feel like I’ve reached the point that while my peers are talking about scaling UP to bigger and greater things, I am looking for ways to scale DOWN. Or at least transition to more passive streams of income and a lot less one-on-one work that requires all of my attention.
Here are four changes I made or am making to make that happen:
- The Four Day Work Week: With all of my children in school all day, there was no reason why I couldn’t limit my work schedule to the school day, plus have a free day to do other things. As I finish up long-term projects, I’m being more considerate of what I take on going forward.
- Bumping Up My Passive Income: I had the realization that I was sitting on a goldmine of assets that could be sold through an automated sales process as long as I was smart about marketing them!
- Just Say No: I touched on this in #1, but a big part of creating a work-life balance is learning to say no. In the early days of my business, I felt like I had to take on every client and project that came along because I wanted the income. My business is a little more established and I don’t have to work as hard to get new clients, so I’ve learned to break the habit of saying yes to every project that comes along. Sometimes, I need a gut-check from my team before taking on a client but there is no longer an automatic YES from me, and that has been a game-changer.
- Build Up Systems and Processes: I have a great team that helps my business run, but my team can’t do anything if I don’t have systems and processes in place so that things can run without me, like client in-take, answering FAQs, and managing my online community. This is a work-in-progress for us but it’s also a real game-changer.
To be honest, I’m still working on managing the balance between work and family. I’m not at the point where I can say that I’ve nailed it; but as we head into the summer months I feel pretty confident that I’ll be enjoying time with my family instead of hiding out in my office, trying to get all my work done and feeling guilty about it. We actually have a vacation planned, and instead of panicking, I’m excited about the systems I’ve put in place so that my business will keep on keeping on while I’m hopping giant waves with my little people. It’s gonna be swell.
Alexa Bigwarfe is a wife, mother, author,publisher, and podcaster. Her writing career began after her infant daughter passed away at 2 days old. She has published numerous books of her own and for many other writers and entrepreneurs through her author coaching and publishing business writepublishsell.co and hybrid-publishing company Kat Biggie Press. She loves sharing resources with busy moms and talking about things that matter most to moms on her podcast Lose the Cape! She helps busy moms learn how to make money through writing so that they can stay home with their children like she has been blessed to do. Sign up for a free trial module in her course Make Money Writing at: http://writepublishsell.thinkific.com/courses/writer-biz-workshop You can find her on Facebook @WritepublishsellLLC and on twitter @katbiggie.