How work-life integration makes working from home peaceful by Bronwyn Mandile.
I’ve been a work-from-home mum for over five years now and I still struggle to get the hang of it most days.
It’s not the physical side of working from home that I find tough. I’m quite the introvert so I love the silence and the complete control I have over my day. If I don’t want to be interrupted, I just don’t look at my email or Messenger, let the telephone go to voice mail and I slap a Do Not Disturb on Skype. Freedom.
I also love the logistics of working from home. Logistics? What logistics? I take the kids to school, return home and make a cuppa and slide into my office. During the day I put a load of washing on, bake some afternoon tea, get the dinner started and still get more done in a day than I ever get through on the days I schlep into the office.
Yep, working from home suits me well but there’s one thing that I just can’t make work no matter how hard I try.
I can’t switch off
I can’t switch off from either work or family, so all day I suffer from some kind of emotional angst as my brain tries to do two things at once.
It never ends.
When I’m working, I’m thinking about family stuff and when I’m with my family, I’m thinking about work. My attention is constantly divided neatly in two.
I worked out of home in a corporate environment for years and I never felt quite as torn between home and work as I did once I started working from home.
Years ago I used to fight this. I tried everything to get a more clear-cut work-life balance happening.
Here are some of the things I tried that didn’t work for me (but might work for you!):
- Had a strict routine of allocated hours of work and hours of play and tried to stick to them.
- Tried meditation for ten minutes before the kids got home from school.
- Set alarms to remind me that it was work or family time.
- Banned myself from my computer when it wasn’t work time.
- Took my work email off my phone.
- Tried to use my study only for work, never for play.
- Used daily rituals to indicate work starting and finishing (even changing clothes for one memorable week)
- Introduced an elaborate afternoon tea time with the kids in an effort to mark the end of my work day.
There was nothing wrong with any of these rituals and I’ve heard that each and every one of them have had good results for someone else. They just made absolutely no difference to the messy work-life meshing that was going on at my place.
So, here’s the thing, a couple of years ago, I just accepted that the whole work-life balance was going to be impossible.
Instead, I decided to try work-life integration. I would have no lines drawn between what was work time and family time. No rules around what I should be doing when. I would simply do my work and hang out with my family when it appeared to suit me and them.
Guess what? It didn’t work.
I found that the pull of interesting work projects was always stronger than the pull of doing the housework or playing Yahtzee with the family. Who knew, right?! So I made some changes.
My Work-Life Integration rules
These days, I still have a work-life integration philosophy, but I also have three loose rules.
- No screens after dinner until the kids/husband go to bed – I’m a night owl, so this gives me work time late at night without taking away from family time.
- Always break for two hours after the kids get home – time for afternoon tea, homework and hanging.
- Do 20 minutes of cleaning every morning before I start work.
These rules have made a big difference in my ability to switch from work to home and back again.
With these three rules in place, I feel like I’ve got a handle on home life and I can then focus on work without getting distracted.
There are so many benefits to working from home, but the boundaries between home and work are non-existent. My three little rules helps me put some in place so I can wallow in the yumminess that is working from home in peace.
About Bronwyn Mandile
Bron has been writing online for over eight years, starting with her blog Maxabella Loves. She’s been an editor at both Kidspot and Mumtastic and written for countless online parenting publications. She is a passionate advocate for working parents, writing extensively on life balance, common sense and strengths-based parenting and the ‘good enough’ parent. Her general life philosophy is that we don’t have to be ‘successful’ in order to be a success. Through her new parenting website Mumlyfe, Bron aims to help parents of tweens and teens to flourish, so they can nurture enlightened, passionate kids who make a difference.
What’s your biggest working mum challenge? Have you managed work-life integration?
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