Work-Life Balance and the Importance of Self Care

All-Mothers-Are-Working-MothersI love my job.  I really do!  There are times however, that I struggle to remain motivated and my creativity is clouded by the many to do lists in my life—from work to home.

Last week I took a day off work.  I didn’t alert my family.  I told my boss I just needed a day.  “Mental health day” she said “got it.”  I love that she gets it.  It was spring break at the college and there wasn’t lots of the usual activity going on anyway. One of the reasons I enjoy my job is because of the leadership in my office.  There’s little micromanaging with encouragement and support when needed.  I find that I thrive in this work environment.  Sure, there are timelines, scheduling, and ‘deliverables’ that are required.  But I believe a certain level of autonomy is important in what we do.  We are humans after all, not machines.  We recharge our batteries in different ways.

So I took the liberty to re-arrange a day in my life.

8:00am Took the kids to school but with no makeup, hair in a tousled ponytail and dressed in yoga wear (wasn’t going to a yoga class).  Came back home and hubby had left to work. I had the WHOLE house to MYSELF! Omigosh!  I poured myself an extra cup of coffee and read a couple of chapters from a book I’m using for research with the subtitle, “:uncovering the secrets of the world’s happiest country” (I see a pattern here).

9:00am Netflix time!  I watched a few episodes of a series that was recommended to me with tons of swearing and nudity that I can’t have on with the kids in the house.

10:00am Maybe I should go get a mani and pedi?  I’ve been avoiding sandals and it’s not because we haven’t had warm, sunny weather.  I text my friend asking if she can have lunch and then I run a bath with some aromatherapy product I got last Mother’s Day.  I decide that I have all of the tools to make my own nail salon at home and I pick the prettiest, brightest red nail lacquer that I own. On fleek!  I’m the only one at home which means I launch my Fleetwood Mac radio stream and now I’m singing out loud to “Dreams” while I pretend I’m in one of those “Calgon, take me away!” commercials from the 1980s. I didn’t understand that commercial as a young girl but I do now. This is also my way of saying I remember the advertisement but I’m not that old.   

11:30am Drive to meet my friend for lunch.  In the car I switch station streams to Notorious BIG radio. Usually inappropriate for my mommy mobile but I’m alone and I proudly practice my rapping skillz while driving.  This is the only multitasking I plan for today.

Noon Meet my friend for lunch. We start off asking how each other is doing.  We order more kimchi and proceed to catch up on gossip and other BS over Bibimbap and I’m pleasantly surprised that we don’t mention each other’s children or husbands once.  We catch our breath from laughing so hard over a shared memory and then we make a pledge, though not a date (yes, many schedules to consult before a set date) for another lunch like this. Good friends are magic for the soul.  I am grateful!

2:00pm It’s only early afternoon. I treat myself to a frothy, decadent venti drink that I normally don’t spend $5 on and I head over to a nearby bargain department store where I take my time going aisle by aisle.  I’m only window shopping but it feels incredibly nice not to have anyone rushing me or the constant worry that I’m on my lunch break and need to get back soon.

3:30pm It’s happy hour somewhere!  I send another text and decide to continue the tour of dive bars that my husband and I have been visiting near our neighborhood.  I walk into a questionable yet cheerful one that has a sailing motif but we are not near the sea and my eyes take a moment to adjust to the low lighting of this drinking den.  I take an empty seat at the bar and I order a beer.  The Barflys go about their business shooting the shit with the bartender and I pick up that there’s some inside jokes that are a part of their high-pitched laughs.  I search my wallet for a dollar bill and I feed the Lotto machine to get a Scratcher.  I hold my breath expecting that I’ll be California’s newest millionaire but I don’t even get one matching pair.  Oh, well!  A handsome man walks in and squints while his eyes adjust.  I smile at him and he takes the seat next to me.  He asks if I’d like a drink.  I tell him that I’m playing hooky and he tells me a joke he heard at work.  We laugh and ask for the check.  Then he turns to me and says, “I’ll meet you at home.  I’ll stop to get milk.”

5:00pm I head home at the same time I’d be leaving work.  I think about how my day went and how relaxed I feel.  I so needed this.

Establishing a work-life balance is hard for working mothers.  Our needs are usually at the bottom of the list- any list.  When I first started my career someone told me “take care of number one— that’s you!”  When I became a wife and then mother the idea of ‘taking care of yourself’ seemed selfish.  When someone would say ‘take care’ to me that meant, get a flu shot, be careful with the pine cones near the sidewalk so you don’t sprain your ankle.  Your children depend on you and there’s no down time.  It didn’t mean, get more sleep or take a day to do things, no matter how small, that make you feel refreshed—like a software update for your brain.  

The importance of self care is obvious but not always easy. But of course I should take care of myself.  This will help me be a better wife, a better mother, a better colleague, a better employee.  My day off wasn’t Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  It was an opportunity to recharge, hear my thoughts, and turn off the digital reminders on my phone that say I have a meeting coming up in 15. I’m still figuring out what the right balance is for me and my family but this day reminded me that it’s not selfish to take some time to yourself.  Perhaps I’ll stop looking at my phone or email after I put the kids to bed.  Instead, maybe I’ll put on one of those moisturizing sheet masks that I love and browse the backlog of my Vogue magazines.  It’s a start and I like it already!