Jul 19, 2010

Ask Amy: The Balancing Act

By: Amy Atlas, in Ask Amy, Kids

I’m just back from an amazing weekend with my family in the country. It was a weekend filled with laughter, relaxation, and love. Our boys had non-stop fun with their cousins. I had quality time with my big brother and mom {so needed!} We swam and grilled pretty much the whole weekend. My husband and I never went near the computer. It was pure bliss. This was a big dichotomy to last week. Last week was jam packed with getting ready for a magazine shoot, client meetings, billing, proposals, and more. I appreciated the weekend that much more after a hard week of work.

After having a weekend to reflect, I thought it would be a good time to address part II of the balancing act of family vs. business. I spoke about this briefly here and I get so many emails about this subject from woman all over the world about how to balance work and family. I think it is easy to perceive that everything looks perfect when you get a small glimpse of someone’s life through a small blog post. But I’m just human like all of us and the truth is that the balance is very hard. Don’t get me wrong…My family is my world, I love my work and having a creative outlet, and I love being able to do it all. But anyone who tells you that it is effortless is lying {unless you have crazy help, which I don’t}. People who know me can tell you that when I’m working on an important project, I go into tunnel vision overload. I get so focused that it is easy to compartmentalize family and work in little boxes. When that happens, things can go awry with my family life. Oh, I try. I really do try to be good at everything. I have the best intentions, but I’ve come to realize I’m just not perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Yes, there have been times that I’ve been the last one to get one of my kid’s school projects in on time, or I’ll completely forget about a change in the schedule when the kids get out early and you’ll find me racing to pick them up so I won’t be late. My mom/school friends know this well! It’s inevitable when you’re trying to manage it all. I’m getting better at it, but have a lot more to go. So here are my tips for maintaining the balance {I’m no expert, but I work on it all the time so why not share the wealth?} Please feel free to add your tips in the comments section as well so we can all benefit from everyone’s advice!

(1) Be Guilt Free – Recognize that you are just human and don’t have to be perfect at everything. Once I realized this, I was more forgiving of any mistakes I’ve made;

(2) Understand Your Balance – Get to know the balance that works well for your family. Only you can know what is good for your family. I ignore any people who judge and just do what is right for my family. If my kids get more time out of me spending quality time with just me rather than a playdate where I spend time with the parents, you can bet I’m going to turn down the playdate. Don’t let extended family, friends, or random people that want to have a say in your life affect your decisions. Only you can know what works best.

(3) Just say No! – For projects that are not essential to your business, just say no! It’s easy for people to get you roped into “small” projects, especially early on in your business. Look at every opportunity and ask yourself “how can this help my business?” Let’s face it…those small projects are never small. Not if you have an ocd personality like me at least:-) So take the time to evaluate whether the project will yield you something for your business. If not, it is going to take away time from your family and other business opportunities. People will get it. Once you start saying no, it gets easier and easier.

(4) Organize, Organize! – Keep an organized list of both your work and family life and look at them daily! This will help you see if you have double booked a meeting, etc. This helps me out tremendously!

(5) Collide Worlds – Allow your kids to be a part of some of your work activities. My kids love coming with me to baking, fabric stores, or book stores to pick up a cookbook {like above}. I don’t force this on them too much, but they really enjoy it when I do bring them.

Those were my tips…what are yours?

PS – Speaking of kids, have you all seen the new cute kid’s party blog called Hip Hip Hooray? I’m a contributing editor there now. Check it out for some great kid party ideas. You can also check out how I looked like as a kid here.

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  • Hi Amy,

    I too had a great weekend…partying! 🙂
    The kids relish helping out and I am ever so grateful.

    I also find that a nice “siesta” or some guilt free “me time” can do the trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It just takes you away from it all and gives you time to prioritise and organise your thoughts, before facing the daily tasks!

    I think the Spanish had it sussed all along!! 😉

  • My answer to balance: Bring my 10yo daughter along to the LA Gift Show this weekend! She saw things that I would’ve missed–a brilliant little kiddie party planner in the making!

    Check out a party I created for my own daughter: the perks of having work and mommy-hood collide–one lucky little girl!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sendintheclownsla/sets/72157623901166640/

    Leesa Zelken, CEO (Children’s Entertainment Organizer TM)
    SEND IN THE CLOWNS “Bravura kiddie party planning”
    ~Los Angeles Magazine
    310.399.3733
    http://www.sendintheclownsla.com

    Become a Fan on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/sendintheclownsla

    Follow us on TWITTER for special discounts, party inspiration, and random observations!
    http://twitter.com/sendinclowns

  • great post and tips – thanks for sharing amy! cheers, jenny

  • This is very familiar and especially relevant for those of us not earning an hourly wage but working for ourselves. Every hour away from work is an hour away from earning income or success, an added element of pressure. It helps that I need very little sleep, so I try and delegate work solely to my daughter’s sleeptime, and I waited a bit too long to find some part-time child care (flashback to feeding her a bottle with my foot while getting a root canal. Really.) My downfall? Rule #3. And to make matters worse, I undercharge to boot. Thank you for reminding me to revisit and heed this rule!

  • Afternoon Amy,

    Good to see another addressing this issue. The same can be said as far as having some form of a social life when your in the “entrepreneurial” swing of things. Tip (3) Just Say No! is some of the best advice given to me my a friend to date. Thanks for sharing!

  • These are great tips.

  • These tips are spoken so honestly. They are so true. Why do people feel that they can tell you how to live your life, or that there is only ONE way to do something? Balance is personal, and what might work for one might not be right for another. Also, it’s always going to be a struggle and thankfully, we can re-evaluate it on a daily basis. If one day is better than another, well tomorrow is a new one! Thanks for sharing!

  • I truly believe its a delicate balance being able to work, be a mom, a friend, a wife. Its a LOT of hats to wear and we are constantly walking a fine line. I cant be a good mom while working, or being a good board member while having my kids with me at my meetings…

    So my tips include, trying to separate the things in your life that way. Devote quality time to each thing you do. Whether it be working, volunteering, mothering, etc. It will be far more effortless and memorable later on.

    Also not overscheduling your family and kids. Once we started saying “no” as you mentioned it made a huge difference for us. Playdates are nothing but a pain if you ask me. yes, they can be fun but overall its just some ladies wanting to judge and put pressure on you because you dont feed your kids organic salsa [exaggerating, here.] but you get the point.

    life is NOT a fairy tale. Its certainly so good but only when you take the time to appreciate it. & I am SOOOO OCD so I love to hear you say that you are as well. Great post Amy!

  • I still don’t get it. What do you ladies do with your children while you are working? I can’t afford, nor do I really want a sitter, which is part of the reason I work from home. I struggle with this balancing act, to the point of tears at times. I feel I am always out of time. My toddler seems to be busier than others. Since my husband and I adopted, I didn’t have the gradual growth with my son and just jumped right into toddlerhood. It’s still a struggle, even after more than a year, to juggle working at home and spending the extra time my son and I need to bond (which is going great!). I love being creative (and need the income) but when my juices finally start flowing it’s either time for my son to get up from his nap, or it’s time for me to go to bed! Do I just accept the fact that I will be perpetually tired – which doesn’t help creativity – which then causes me to procrastinate which in turn creates disaster and even more stress at every turn? Can anyone relate?

  • I love to hear that exceptional women are also exceptional moms. Love this little insight into your “behind-the-scenes” family life and thanks so much for number #1 on your list. As a recovering perfectionist {wink}, I really need to hear this from someone I admire.

  • This is a great post and relatable in so many ways. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of balance, which is often so easily overlooked… It’s amazing how rewarding that family time is when you’re also dedicated to your work!

  • This post is perfect timing for me…my little one has been crawling/clinging to me all day as I attempt to meet deadlines, send emails, proof photos and finish some design work!! It’s indeed difficult finding that balance – your post is much appreciated and valued beyond belief. Thanks Amy.

  • Perfection is overrated. My kids love to help, sometimes it’s help, and sometimes it’s more work! I usually give them their own little project to work on while I’m working on mine. Finding a balance can be challenging~ finding a happy medium is the key;o) I’m still working on it!

  • Daisy

    Kudos to Amy..especially on #2. I have found a way to deal with the extended recommendations in my life. My husband (who is wonderful), married me and two kids. He started comparing how we do things to other families. My comment to him was, “well, my friends husband just build her a deck”. I reminded him that we are our own family, not someone else’s. What works for some people, doesnt work for us, quit comparing how I raise my kids to other families because I dont compare you to someone else’s husband. Worked great for my mom-in-law, and my mother too!!

  • I once read that if you have a passion for something its worth doing but you will work twice as hard for it. I believe this to be completely true… I am in the process of working (almost full time at 4 days a week) along with raising my beautiful one year old – all while starting a fabulous online boutique/shopping experience for children’s clothing… For the creative type I think you have to let it out or else there are consequences by way if inner conflict which is not good once it manifests.

    For my family what works is having amazing experiences with our child, we love to travel and haven’t stopped just because we added a child to the mix. We just got back from her first trip to Paris. The trip put into perspective why I continue to work… our family balance is work + reward = amazing family time and memories! And at the end of the day, my child is happy – many people tell me she is the happiest kid they have ever seen! So it makes me just keep doing what I am doing 🙂

  • Amy, I think that you have found the right balance. It’s probably never perfect, but it works for you and your family. What you are doing and how gracefully you are doing it is remarkable. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us and being so open and sincere.

  • I don’t have kids but sometimes I do feel like I’m neglecting the hubby, but he is always involve in the delivery and setup of most events. Sometimes I feel guilty because he has a full-time job but he always says it is “our” business and he is providing the muscle. Now with this dessert table business I am challenging him to make me little structures to act as risers for the table and he did the backdrop of my first dessert table. 🙂

  • #2 is key, it is so easy sometimes to let what other people think make you feel guilty as a mother. But in all honesty, we don’t know what other people are thinking most of the time. We do know, like with my Mother in law and I just have to remind myself she comes from a different place and time, and know I am doing the very best for my kids.
    #3 AMEN