Lori Milner, the brainchild behind the Beyond The Dress workshops, shares how she struggled to get the work-life balance just right, and offers advice on what worked for her.
A couple of month ago, I added ‘mom’ onto my list of accolades. My son, Aiden was born and with this, cascaded all the reams of responsibilities that come with being a mother. Now more than ever, my quest to face the all-elusive challenge of finding work/life balance played on my mind. Is work/life balance even possible? And then suddenly I had my ‘Aha moment’: Work/Life balance is not about being the perceived cookie-cutter all-rounder, or what you think others expect of you. It is really just about how you define it in your world.
Being an entrepreneur and running my own business means I don’t quite get to switch off my laptop when the baby is born and emerge 4 months later (post-maternity leave) hoping my clients are all still waiting for me. So I have had to really juggle a new- born baby, emails, event planning, corporate programs and sanity!
Truth be told, I resented this in the early weeks, feeling cheated out of being allowed to cacoon with my baby. All I wanted was ‘us time’ and here I was racing to reply to emails in between his sleeps! It took me a while to give into the fact that my world is unique for me and that there isn’t a perfect picture of what maternity leave should be, but rather what’s right for me right now. I have taken my own advice that life is all about choice and this is the way I have chosen to experience my maternity period.
I have finally let go of the expectation of what I “should” be doing and rather accepted, embraced what I want to do and more importantly what works for me. Since that moment, I am a lot more relaxed, focused and excited about each day as it is constantly changing. I really do live an outside life in between his naps and make sure I use this time to really focus on the tasks at hand. When I am with him, it’s our special bonding time – in that moment he is my most important client- no calls and no distractions!
Some other insights I have learned on the journey so far that can really be applied to everyday life:
- Find patience: In becoming a mom, my patience has been prodded and pushed to the nether-regions! It’s amazing how short my fuse can be on the things that don’t really matter. So my advice to other moms who have this T-shirt…don’t sweat the small stuff and do whatever you can to bring a certain calmness into other work or personal situations.
- Prioritise: I live between my sons sleeps which means I get a maximum of 2 hours to myself in that time. I have really learnt about prioritising to-do lists and the art of focusing on the task at hand. It is also amazing how quickly you can finish something when you know you have limited time to do it. The consequence of not finishing it means having to make it up after hours (when you have less energy than you did earlier) so it really isn’t worth wasting the time you have, when you have it.
- Intuition: I have only been a mom for a short time but I have already learnt how important it is to trust my intuition. Although on paper I am still a novice, I truly realise that some things are inherently felt and known. Even when parents who have been doing this way longer than me gives me conflicting advice, I have stuck to my guns and been right! Take this lesson into your everyday world and when you have a gut feeling about something, listen to it! It is always right.
- Accepting/ asking for help: This is one of the most important lessons I have learnt. We don’t get extra points for being a martyr and our children will never ask us if we exclusively cared for them. Many women feel it makes them better moms if they do everything themselves. In my humble opinion, it makes them insane! Getting sleep, being calm and relaxed makes for a more present mother. So for the times you really feel run down and alone in this – pick up the phone and get some help or accept the help that is being offered to you. If you have the means to afford a nurse to take over from time to time, it is the best investment you will ever make. After all, it is an investment in yourself. This lesson applies throughout life, there are times when it really is ok (and necessary!) to accept a helping hand.
- Mind over matter: It is possible to survive on minimal sleep – so really no more excuses for gym when you have a late night!
So looking back, motherhood so far have already taught me to do what works for me. Instead of doing what I think I should be doing I have realised that words like ‘should’ only create anxiety and stress. Now instead, I choose words like ‘want’, inviting acceptance, choice and empowerment into my maternal space.
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