Because I work from home, my work-life balance is always something I have to be mindful of.
Sure, it’s great, because I can work whenever and wherever I’d like. If my son won’t take a nap or if he’s sick, I can work next to him on the couch while he watches Paw Patrol. I can snuggle with my husband while I answer emails. It’s great to have such flexibility.
But, there’s a downside.
The work is always there. I don’t go to an office, work, and leave when I’m done and that’s that. The work is always nearby, waiting to be done. And when it comes to blogging, the work is never done. There’s always something more I could be doing.
And few weeks ago? I was a woman possessed.
Don’t get me wrong – my intentions were good. I figured the harder I worked now, the less I’d have to work down the line, and the more money my family would have. Win-win-win. Right?
I worked from sun up to sun down with very few breaks in between.
I went from periods of dead-set commitment to crushing despair, during which time I didn’t let myself have any sort of mental health break. I told myself if I wasn’t making the progress I wanted, I wasn’t good enough, and I needed to work harder.
Leisure time? Forget about it. Time not working was time wasted, in my mind.
I worked on my blog. I worked my medical transcription job. I did odd jobs like baby-sitting and cleaning. I worked and worked and worked.
When I wasn’t working, I was taking care of my son. But even when I was caring for him, I was distracted. I was thinking about what I should work on when he went to sleep, hoping he’d go to bed easily so I could work without interruptions.
My husband was getting whatever energy and attention I had left over from those things which, unsurprisingly, was barely anything.
And me? Pfft. I hardly had time to shower. But at least I was making progress, right?
I made myself and everyone else around me miserable. My husband finally called me out on it and asked why he couldn’t make me happy – which is when I finally realized I was making myself crazy.
So here’s the secret I learned.
My mental health is important.
I’ve heard it said once that if the man is the head of the home, the woman is the heart. I mean, I don’t know about the whole “head” thing, but I absolutely believe the latter part. My emotions affect the tone of our entire household… for better or for worse.
If I’m happy, so are my husband and my son. If I’m relaxed, so are they. The household seems to run more smoothly and things get done more easily. It’s easier for everyone to find more humor in frustrating situations, even major things like unexpected car repairs.
When I let myself get run down and snippy, my son throws more tantrums. He’s clingier. My husband comes home from stressful days at work and has to pick up the pieces of me falling apart.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.
I had to realize that if I worked myself to death and put my family dead last, there wasn’t going to be a solid family base left for me to come back to. I needed to put my family – and myself- first.
I set out a time limit for my work time. I put my son in half-day daycare two days a week so I had some solid, uninterrupted time. I started taking naps when I felt the urge and taking bubble baths and reading more good books. I tried to finish my work during the weekdays so I could spend the weekends on fun stuff. I limited myself to 2-3 nights a week of working when my husband was home, rather than every single night.
When I took a step back and put limits on my work time, I felt less tense. I could see beyond my to-do list and enjoy playing with my little boy. I could see my husband and how awesome he is. I could see how badly they wanted me to be okay – so that they knew they could be okay.
The truth is? They depend on me. They need me to be strong. They need me to be an example of self-care, of putting family first.
I can’t lose myself and think they’re going to know where to find me. They need me there: healthy in mind and body, ready to give them all the love I have – not the fumes that are left over after everything else.
That’s why, even though self-care can sometimes feel like a totally selfish proposition, it’s not. If you want to be “all in” for your family, you need to spend time building yourself up, too.
And it doesn’t take a ton of time. Just a little now and then, like a shower or a quick power nap, or painting a picture with your kiddos, can have a huge impact on your mood.
One thing I highly recommend if you’re in a stage of life where it’s possible is to get up at least a half hour before your kids to either get yourself ready for the day, or just grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the rare moments of solitude.
(Side note: this might even make you a morning person :))
So, what should you do?
If you’re having a rough day, do something to “re-set” yourself, whatever that means for you. Spend some time outside, treat yourself to a soda or Starbucks, or spend some time coloring with your kids.
Just do something to change things around. Anything. If things aren’t working, test something new.
Just please, don’t let your bad mood fester and get worse.
Remember: You are important. You matter. And if you’re not willing to do it for yourself, do it for your family 🙂
What’s your favorite way to relax?