You want to make an impact in your work whilst also being a great mum.
You’re committed to your children but also your career.
When you’re someone that has high standards for yourself in life and work it can feel like an impossible balancing act.
Most working mums can relate to walking the tightrope of balancing motherhood with their careers – feeling that at any time the balance could be thrown out by a sick child or an urgent work call that demands to be taken during family time.
The concept of balance was never really that helpful.
It assumed that there were only two ends of the balancing act and, in reality, our lives are more complex and multifaceted than that.
It also assumed that when one side of the seesaw went up the other went down – meaning that there was a tradeoff between them.
But this perspective is often fuelled by a deeply unhelpful narrative for mothers as Daphne Delvaux from Mamattorney states:
Mothers are stuck between an economy that tells them the work comes first and a society that tells them the kids come first, but who is advocating for the mothers’ needs? The result is an entire generation of burned-out women.
Plus the concept of work-life balance is deeply outdated. Before the arrival of technology, our work lives and home lives were separated so we could compartmentalise our lives more neatly.
In the last couple of years, while trying to navigate life during a pandemic, it became clear that the lines were a lot more blurred than this. Balance wasn’t just an aspiration during Covid – it was an impossibility.
What happened for most of us was work-life bleed rather than work-life balance.
Work-life bleed happens when work bleeds into your personal life….and as often was the case during the pandemic, your personal life bleeds into your work.
Let’s be clear, this was happening way before the pandemic;
- with technology that allows us to be contactable anytime, anyplace and anywhere
- with smartphones that are designed to encourage us to quickly check our inboxes or notifications even when we know we shouldn’t
- and with work cultures that implicitly (and even often explicitly) expect us to always be ‘on’
Work-life bleed can blur the boundaries beyond recognition. Meaning that you’re swapping identities and mindsets quicker than a speeding bullet. Not only is it exhausting, but it’s also highly unproductive.
Context switching, according to psychologist Gerald Weinberg, eats up 20–80% of your overall productivity.
So if you find yourself falling into work-life bleed what can you do?
It might be more helpful to consider the concept of work-life blend instead.
Work-life blend is based on the assumption that there are lots of different ingredients and they can be blended together rather than traded off against each other on a weighing scale. Imagine making your favourite cocktail or mocktail.
Here are the five steps to creating your ideal work-life blend:
- Find the right ingredients
Knowing what you want to put into your mix is the first step toward achieving your ideal work-life blend. Just like a cocktail shaker eventually reaches capacity, so does your life. So prioritising what goes in is important.
- Define how you’ll measure your ingredients
The traditional measure for work-life balance was time.
You would take the hours you spent and weigh them up.
But time is often not a useful measure of your life. Quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to quality.
For your personal ideal cocktail of work-life blend, you need to define what your measure of the perfect taste (success) will be like.
Perhaps it’s measuring your happiness?
Perhaps it’s measuring the quality and depth of your relationships?
Perhaps it’s defining the life experiences you want to have?
These are the kind of questions that are helpful to ask yourself for your work-life blend.
- Make your signature blend
Just as James Bond liked his martinis shaken and not stirred, your work-life blend is your personal ideal mix. Unlike work-life balance where the ideal is to evenly distribute the weight, with work-life blending, there is no “perfect” to strive for—but rather one that you like the taste of and that works for you.
If working full time works for you then great.
If spending two days a week at home feels like your ideal blend explore how you can make that happen.
If keeping in touch with friends on WhatsApp during the day makes you feel connected and happy then aim for incorporating that into your mix.
Try to let go of cultural and societal norms and expectations.
We each have a different palate so what will taste great for one person will not for another.
- Create a recipe
Ever gone to a bar and asked for your signature cocktail and it just doesn’t taste right? Maybe they put too much of an ingredient in? Or maybe they didn’t mix it in the way that you like it?
For your ideal blend to be created and then recreated in a way that works for you, it can be useful to create a recipe card. This lets others know how to help make your ideal blend.
In reality, this is about communicating your ingredients and creating ways for them to be mixed.
This means creating and communicating your boundaries.
It often means having difficult conversations.
It’s about creating habits and rituals that help the blend to happen in a way that tastes great.
- Refine your blend
The great thing about developing a work-life blend approach is that the blend does not have to be the same and it can change depending on what you feel like at any point in time.
This week you might fancy a martini cocktail – next week it might be a gin one!
This is especially important as you navigate your career pipeline with your mothering journey – different ingredients will appeal to you at different times.
If your blend isn’t quite working, that’s ok, try a few other ingredients and see which work best.
This gives you flexibility and control – you get to decide – not society or someone else. It also gives you permission to experiment, as only you can determine what taste you like and what ingredients go into making up your blend.
It’s ultimately about asking whether the blend is working for you.
And doing this on a consistent basis – not getting used to having the same cocktail out of habit even if you don’t enjoy it as much as you used to.
And this is the beauty of work-life blending. You become your own “mixologist” – having a deeper appreciation of the ingredients and techniques used to make your ideal blend.
Now there might be some bars that won’t make your cocktail in the way you like it, even if you ask them to. But that then empowers you with choices about where you go to drink your ideal blend.
Or, as in the case of brilliant women like Joeli Brierley and Anna Whitehouse, we can collectively start to challenge those establishments that aren’t offering the choice and flexibility to develop our own blends.
We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!
We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.