(First published on the Contented Calf website on Tuesday 7th June 2011.)
My good friend Leonard and I caught up on the phone the other weekend for what turned out to be one of our ‘Power-Chats’. Ladies, you’ll know what I mean:
- We talked about literally everything in our lives
- We analysed said everything to the nth degree
- Leonard’s OH came to the phone a few times asking if she’d forgotten about his existence (the call lasted 1hr 59 mins!!!!)
- We both finished the call feeling revitalised and happy.
Topic number 834 of the Power-Chat was my work-life balance.
As you’ll know, recently I wrote that I’d come to the conclusion that I was really happy with my work-life balance (Happy New Year). And for the most part I still am.
But as you’ll also be aware, I work from home (alone) three days a week, and Hubby works away. Ironically, as a result I don’t really get much time ‘to myself’ even though I’m on my own a lot.
I don’t have an in-built baby-sitter in the form of a partner living with us during the week. (I have the utmost respect for full-time single parents and I’m fully aware of how lucky I am to have a supportive partner, even if it’s mainly at the weekends.) So evenings out of any kind, whether that be an exercise class or grabbing a bite to eat with the girls, have been few and far between.
I’ve felt that I shouldn’t ‘over-spend’ in terms of child-care arrangements – in the cash sense of paying for a baby-sitter and/or free child-care ‘credits’ with friends and family.
One important thing Leonard helped me realise is that time I’d been counting as ‘me time’ (when BF’s at nursery and I’m working on the business) wasn’t really that.
Just because I now work from home and no longer commute to an office where I ‘clock in and clock out’ (not literally, I wasn’t employed in the 1950s :-)), and just because I’m not looking after BF those days, that doesn’t make it ‘me time’. Yes, I’m passionate about the business. Yes, I’m excited by it and enjoy working. But it’s not down-time, where I can relax and not think – quite the opposite.
So we started talking through possible ways of getting more time-out. It was here that Leonard quoted her very sage father:
“Sometimes you just have to know when to take a cab”.
He’d actually meant it literally in response to a terrible tale of public transport woes, which Leonard recounted to her parents after a particularly hellish journey to meet them once, arriving hot, sweaty, stressed and late.
But Leonard had taken it both as literal advice and as a metaphor for life, and knowing when a small up-front cost is worth paying for a worthwhile benefit.
She pointed out (quite rightly I believe) that all too often, particularly in our personal lives, we only look at the cost of something, and rarely the benefit it will bring. In my case, yes on the surface paying for a baby-sitter just to be able to go out for a bowl of pasta with some friends might make it seem like the most expensive bowl of pasta in the world! But if it’s only every couple of months, and I come back home, having laughed, drunk and been merry (as in the phrase, rather than the inebriated sense, though a getting a little tipsy at times is always good for the soul ), then I will feel happier, more fulfilled and ready to take on life’s challenges – both in work and mummyhood.
And that’s a price worth paying (a cab worth taking).
Leonard also got me to see that I should be enjoying one of the benefits of working for yourself – not having to be stuck to a 9-5 (8-6!) day.
It was recently mine and Hubby’s birthdays (we were born a year and a week apart – 51 weeks to prepare for his birthday apparently, and 1 for mine! ). So I got us a personal trainer as we’d both been feeling really sluggish, especially over the last few months. I’ve now got a running and toning exercises plan (more on that in future blogs). But one thing she really recommended was that I go to a Pilates or Yoga class once a week too. She said of course I could get a DVD and do it at home, but as I’m at home a lot, it would be really beneficial to go to a class for the social element too. Initially, I’d said that that could only be on Saturdays or Sundays. But weekend Yoga/Pilates classes seem a bit sparse in our local area, so it was not looking good and an online DVD purchase was looking likely.
And then came my Power-Chat, which couldn’t have come at a better time. The answer was staring me right in the face: I take an hour or so out of my ‘working day’ to go to a class, when BF’s at nursery, and then catch up on my work in the evening when I’m stuck at home (unable to go out to a class) when BF’s in bed!
Crazily simple. (First class booked for Tuesday morning 9am! )
I guess years (and years) of working standard days, coupled with the feeling that as BF’s in nursery I should be chained to my desk from the moment I get back til the moment I have to leave otherwise I’m a cruel mother, meant I just couldn’t see the solution. As with my struggles over my identity now that I’m a mum (Happy New Year and It Takes Nine Months), I think I’m still working on breaking out of the habit of working the standard working week.
But the understanding that I’m in no way bound to previous restrictions is starting (slowly) to become embedded in my brain. I just have to be smart with my time. In terms of work, what’s important is that I get it done. In terms of play, what’s important is that I try make sure I get some. When those two things happen, really is up to me.
So as you can see, this Power-Chat was particularly powerful. Having someone be able to look at your life from outside it and point out unseen solutions to you is priceless. (Thanks Leonard!) Of course before our chat I was happy, but if I can make my life work even better for me, then that’s even better – after all, we’ve only got one life. And as well as breaking out of the Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 mould...
sometimes you just have to know when to take a cab!
That’s all folks!
With love from our family to yours,