The 3 Lessons I Learned About Work/Life Balance During A Recent Work Crisis (And How You Can Avoid My Mistakes!)
Recently, I went through a 2-week long work crisis that tested my patience, threatened to overwhelm me to the point of giving up on my current job, and made me second-guess my previously-constructed work/life balance priorities.
Whether you are a parent who works outside the home or one who works from home, I’m sure you can relate to my story.I work as a clinical faculty member at a University in Southern California. I see patients through the faculty clinic and I serve as the training coordinator for our second-year doctoral psychology students at our on-campus mental health clinic. I had negotiated to go from a full-time position to a part-time position starting in July – which was the same week that the new cohort of students were to begin their year-long clinical training at my clinic.
Needless to say, nothing went right.
Someone in the IT department made a mistake that prevented my students to have access to their electronic medical records accounts. That problem got fixed.
Then, another person in a different department made a mistake that caused my students to not have the ability to schedule patients. That problem got fixed.
Problem after problem occurred. Students got anxious and frustrated. Patients became angry and annoyed. Once I thought “how could things get any worse,” I found out that it actually could! In addition to this work stress, I also had family stress and responsibilities weighing heavily on my shoulders as well.During this same time, my grandma (who lives in a town 45 minutes away from me) was rushed to the hospital because of problems with her heart. She ended up staying in the hospital for 4 days and is now resting comfortably at home.
It was important to me (and it also aligns with my personal passions, values, and beliefs) to be with her at the hospital during her health crisis, so I found the time to be with her every day during her health crisis.This time of the year is also summer break for my kids, which means summer school for my son and lots of social activities for my daughter. Needless to say, I had one of those weeks, and now that my work and family crises are finally over, there are 3 things I would have done differently in order to better maintain my work/family harmony.
I want to share the lessons I learned with you, so that you can benefit from them and survive your own work or family crisis better than I did.
Draw a Line Between Work & Family & Stick To It
During my work crisis, I fell into the trap of thinking that if I put in more hours at work (taking time away from my family), the work crisis would resolve itself faster.
In reality, putting in extra hours at work did nothing to influence the crisis. Why? Because no matter what I did, I still had to wait for other people to do their jobs (i.e. fix the IT problem, the billing issue, etc.).N
o amount of me walking around the clinic talking with students or trying to find other IT or billing employee to help with our issue resolved the situation any faster. I should have adhered to my new part-time schedule.
In addition, I also worried about my work stress during “family time”. This is ineffective for 2 reasons: 1) because worrying doesn’t solve a problem and 2) it took my attention away from my grandma’s crisis and my kids.I know it’s easier said than done, but going forward, I am going to attempt to practice being more intentional about leaving my work worries at work so that I can be more fully present during family times.
Don’t Try To Be All Things To All People
During my work and family crises, I attempted to be the person that everyone needed, which is an impossible task. For example, I tried to be a good listener and problem-solver for my students and their patients. I also attempted to be a dependable and loving caretaker for my grandma and an attentive mother to my 2 teenagers. It was also important for me to be there for my kids.
It’s just impossible to be all things to all people all at once!Instead of trying to be the “perfect” supervisor, granddaughter, and mother, Iit would have been acceptable to prioritize my responsibilities. For example, I wish that I had given myself a break for feeling bad about asking my daughter to postpone her social activities so I could go out of town to visit my grandma. My grandma’s health is way more important than my daughter’s social life, so telling her that she would have to either cancel her plans with her friends or find her own ride to these events would have been an acceptable alternative.
I’m sure I’m like a lot of other parents who feel like if they just put in a little bit more effort, they can please everyone, but this is simply not the case. Asking my daughter to take charge of her own social life and telling my students and coworkers that I will be definitely leaving the clinic at noon is an acceptable choice to make during this time.
Make Sure To Take Care of Yourself
I’m the kind of person who puts herself last on the list when it comes to taking care of people. Does that sound like you too?This experience definitely taught me to practice what I preach: to take time to take care of my own needs in addition to the other people that I care about in my life. When I did take time out to relax or to indulge in one of my passions, I felt more invigorated and prepared to take on the stress of my crises.
What does taking care of yourself look like? It’s different for everyone, so you need to take a little time to reflect on what things tend to relax and inspire you. For example, I am the quintessential introvert – I get re-charged when I spend time by myself reading, learning, enjoying one of my passions, or just having some quiet time to think. However, I have a friend who is the polar opposite of me – she gets energized after socializing with people, so having quiet time to herself would only increase her stress.Therefore, you need to do what works for you.
Does binge watching your favorite tv show relax you? Then take some time to do that. Does a good exercise session tend to calm your body, mind, and spirit? Then carve out a half hour or so during your crisis for exercise.
It is true what they say: the caretaker is just as important as the person (or people) they are taking care of, and the only way to continue being a competent and caring caretaker is to take breaks to care for yourself. I know that when I stopped feeling selfish about this and spent some time “being introverted” was I able to tackle my care taking duties in a better and more positive light.
What You Can Do
Are you currently going through some type of crisis? Can you resolve to follow the three pieces of advice from above?I would love to hear about your experience with work/family balance issues. What do you struggle with when it comes to pleasing your family and your boss? What has worked for you that you would like to share with other parents? Please leave your thoughts on this issue below – I would love to read them.
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