Updated: May 21, 2022
"I really want to do healing work professionally, but I have young kids and I feel bad if I can't be there for them. How do I balance my work and life?" I hear the question come up a lot. Sometimes it's from students asking how to start a healing practice, other times it's from clients who are artists, designers, or other small business owners, struggling to feel sane in the life they've created. Right now the popular thing among rising female entrepreneurs is to say, " Balance doesn't exist! It's a lie!" I don't believe that. I think it's something we say to make ourselves feel better. Balance is real, and it's attainable. I do, however, think the definition of balance needs to be redefined.
People often think of balance as a static state. We imagine the kid sitting quietly at the center of the teeter toter rather than bouncing up and down, back and forth. Instead, I'd like to invite you to think of balance as dynamic. Envision the pendulum of a grandfather clock swinging, causing the clock to tell time. Dynamic balance is really how life moves forward. When we take steps forward, we are actually falling forward and catching ourselves with our feet. When we work a long day, we sleep at night to repair. Moments of total stillness are ephemeral at best, and they allow us glimpses of the life we are creating.
Dynamic balance is something you can easily create in your life, and it begins with good boundaries. Burning out from too many responsibilities in either work or family is a sign that your dynamic balance is off. It may be time to check your work-life boundaries.
HOW TO FIX BALANCE ISSUES
To establish better balance in your life, you've got to have boundaries around (a) the sacred time that is just for your work, (b) the sacred time that is just for family, and (c) the sacred time that is for you to integrate on your own.
When you're working, just work. It's not the time to send texts every five minutes answering your babysitter. It's not the time to confirm dinner plans, or message long-lost friends. If you're needing that time, create a separate space for it. On the other hand, when you're at home, focus on your family and loved ones. It isn't the time to catch up on paperwork you forgot, or to make last minute phone calls.
Sometimes you may break the rules. Sometimes a call needs to happen, or dinner needs to be confirmed. That's okay. After all, it's your life. But the more you honor the boundaries that you set around these designated times, the easier it is for others to see, understand, and also value your time in these spaces.
HEALING THE MINDSET
I believe our society has, since birth, encouraged men to set the boundaries where they need, and to pride the time they spend at work without feeling guilty about what they're missing. Men are often taught to "Bring home the bacon." I'm not saying this always happens, or even that it's the most healthy teaching, but I think it is a cultural teaching that men should have pride in the time they spend at work, and to feel good about whatever time they might spend with family. As a result, the work-life balance isn't something that comes up as often when men are beginning their entrepreneur journey. Even when they have big families, men also get a lot more social support around it. Partners have been taught to honor work needs. Parents have been taught to be extra proud if a man is achieving his work goals. In other words, balance is not taught, but men are rewarded if they managed to show up in both work and life.
On the other hand, women may be reprimanded: "Do you really have time for that? Maybe you're doing too much and you should just wait until the baby is older? How are you going to create something like that when you've got a house to take care of?" Women are often taught to have pride in their home life, and to place work as a second priority.
If work is given equal importance by a woman, it can conflict with her cultural norms and she may feel guilt or failure whenever she tries to move ahead. If that's you, take some time to journal around these thoughts so you can become very clear about what your work means to you and why it needs to be valued. You don't want to feel guilty for setting the boundaries necessary to grow your dream business.
You can always tell your boundaries need some tweaking if you feel:
+ unmotivated to keep doing the things you're doing
+ constantly rushed, as if there's not enough time for everything
+ lacking in time
If these feelings are coming up, FIRST check in with yourself. Are you honoring you start and end times for work? Are you taking unrelated calls, or allowing distractions during that time? Are you fully present when you're with family, or are you constantly thinking of work and fitting in last-minute things? Are you fully present at work, or are you constantly fielding family calls every hour?
Look at when you're feeling tired or guilty, and check to see if there are regular patterns around those feelings. Where is it showing up? Now... What kind of boundary can be set or adjusted to fix it? Do you need to kindly let family know your door is closed during work barring an actual hospital emergency? Do you need to leave your work on your work desk? Do you need to set better times for work inquiries or networking? Do you need more designated spaces to do paperwork? Do you need to vision board around how you want your family life to actually look and feel?
My clients who are newer to entrepreneurship often struggle with where to put boundaries to begin with. They love dreaming about their work, but they don't really know how to make it happen. If that's you, the very first boundary you can set is a regular "date" with yourself, once a week, for 3 hours. Designate this day and time for the business of taking action on your entrepreneur dream. Show up for this date just as you would for any other job you enjoy, or for a lover. Don't break it. Tend it. Then cultivate a work space related to it. That could be a desk in your home, a coffee shop, or a professional office, but once you designate the time, tie it to a physical location to help ground the energy of what you're creating.
If you don't have 3 hours of time each week, it's okay to drop it down to 1 hour and begin there. You've got to begin somewhere, or else how are you going to make that dream a reality? It may feel scary to insist on that time for yourself, especially if others are used to you being available. If you need more of a pep talk, check out the related video on my Youtube page.
If three hours is easy, then consider a healthy baseline of work hours in a schedule that really works just for you. It may be 2 hours every evening. It may be 6 hours at a time, two or three times a week.
Over the years, I have worked everywhere for 4 hours a week, to 40 hours a week, creating and building my dream business. What I love about being an entrepreneur is that I can craft it to fit my lifestyle. Don't forget your power to create the life you love!
Do you struggle with this? Make sure you connect with others that can encourage your mindset around the life you are cultivating.
DAILEY LITTLE is a healing practitioner, transformational life coach, ordained Priestess, and teacher who founded Healing Heart Reiki to help others navigate life with joy. She teaches classes in healing and mindset from a magical peaceful corner of the world in Northern California. For more info see: www.SantaRosaReiki.com