January 3, 2018
The concept of “work-life balance” is always a hot talking point when I’m meeting with people about agency life, especially now that I’m a mom and have another human depending on me for survival. Honestly, it always surprises me. Of course, I want to be a well-rounded human, partner, mom, colleague and friend. But striving for a 50/50 “balance” between life and work would put me in a perpetual state of failure. In my mind, balance is a goal that’s impossible to achieve because something will always demand more than the other. For me, it’s more about finding ways – perhaps coping mechanisms – that can be used to make life easier when work demands more and likewise when life needs more attention.
So, I’ve started collecting “life hacks” that help me get the boring – but necessary – needs out of the way and leave me with more quality time with my family and friends, opportunities to pursue my career goals and maybe – just maybe – a little time to squeeze in a workout.
It feels like we average 7-10 Amazon packages per week. Our mailperson probably thinks I have a shopping problem – little do they know that we just have a six-month old. I order everything from Amazon: diapers, wipes, baby gear, breastfeeding supplies, laundry detergent, books, and so much more. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Target run. But it’s so nice to cross that extra stop off my list, know that I’m saving a little bit of money and my purchase will be sitting on my doorstep in 48 hours. If you don’t already have Amazon Prime, you’re missing out.
This has been more of a mindset shift for me. There are many things in the day that I’m not able to do, but maybe want to do. I find that my day feels fuller if I focus on all of the things I was able to accomplish and enjoy and leave my “didn’t get to it” list behind me.
Not your typical WFH status – this is all about a “Workout from Home.” It’s tough to get into the gym. Mornings are precious time when I’m able to catch up on sleep and get some time with Otto when he’s at his happiest, and evenings are usually a flurry of last-minute emails before I’m running out the door to daycare relief. We’ve purchased some key pieces of gym equipment and created a space where we can workout from home. Even if it’s just moving my body for a few minutes a day, I feel much less guilt than if I’m skipping the gym. (Is it skipping if I didn’t think I could make it there in the first place?!)
Life and work have overtaken my reading time, and I’ve quickly learned to use my commuting time – approximately 30-45 minutes each way – to listen to podcasts and learn something new. I get parenting advice from The Modern Mamas Podcast, a dose of pop culture with NYT’s Still Processing and a new perspective on relationships from Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? I will take any and all podcast recommendations!
Take Stress out of Dinner
Local Crate has changed my life. As working parents of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, they have made dinnertime become a favorite time of day in our house. Why? For countless reasons:
MADE ME BETTER – My husband loves to cook. I don’t. Local Crate taught me how to make the most delicious meals and to be so much more comfortable in the kitchen. In fact, I actually enjoy cooking now. At least once a week I declare, “This might be the best meal I have ever had.”
MADE OUR MARRIAGE BETTER – “What’s for dinner?” is never muttered. The amount of stress that takes off of a relationship is priceless. And the fact that weekends can be spent together instead of grocery-store shopping and food prepping is life changing.
MADE OUR KIDS BETTER – I LOVE that our son has been exposed to so many flavors he never would have. To now have kids that love shrimp and balsamic and couscous and mahi mahi is pretty special. The only issue is now when we go out to eat, the kiddie menu just won’t cut it.
MADE OUR FAMILY BETTER – Every night our kids are part of the food-making process and our sons have become the go-to-guys for lemon juicing and garlic pressing. They take joy in cooking and are real contributors to the family. We don’t cook for the kids. The family cooks together. We sit down and eat together. It is pretty magical.
Take the Guesswork out of Getting Dressed
I don’t necessarily have a “uniform” per say, but over time I’ve built a wardrobe where 90 percent of my clothes match, which makes getting dressed super easy.
Create Space for Clutter
I read an interesting article recently (I think on Apartment Therapy?) where a designer talked about how you need to create storage/hanging/”throw shit in it” spaces where you leave your “messy stuff.” So, if you always have shoes sitting by the door because the closet is far away (I do! Closet is in the next room), get some shoe storage there. Or if you always throw coats over that one chair, put a coat rack next to it. For me the biggest thing is mail and keys and loose pocket stuff, so I got a cute little teak organizer thing that I throw keys, rubber bands, loose screws, etc., in and put it on the kitchen counter (where shit just collects) and it’s helped me feel like my counter isn’t constantly cluttered. I do the same thing with little dishes on my nightstand and dresser for hair ties, rings, bobby pins, etc.
But First, Coffee.
I use a single-cup pour over coffee thingy that I set up the night before and when I wake up I turn my kettle on right before I jump in the shower, so that I can brew my coffee right after the shower while brushing my teeth. I love to sleep and have NEVER been a morning person, so this helps me do two things at once.
Get into a Routine
I don’t know if I have any real life hacks to share but rather try to be as organized as possible. For instance, I make lunches for the kids and myself the night prior. I meal prep (for the whole family) as much as possible during the weekend. For instance, chop all the vegetables, measure out breakfasts/lunches/snacks. Laundry is just a continuous cycle – it’s not waiting until “laundry day” but rather doing a load or two every day. I use grocery delivery services in a pinch and otherwise try to shop at Target (solo) first thing on a weekend morning (exciting, I know) because it’s less busy.
Merge the Good and the Bad
I’m a huge fan of temptation bundling.
From Freakonomics: “Temptation bundling”: the idea of tying together two activities — one you should do but may avoid; and one you love to do but isn’t necessarily productive. Or, as Milkman describes it in a research paper (co-authored with Julia Minson and Kevin Volpp), “a method for simultaneously tackling two types of self-control problems by harnessing consumption complementarities. Among the examples Milkman gives in the podcast: “So what if you only let yourself get a pedicure while catching up on overdue emails for work? Or what if you only let yourself listen to your favorite CDs while catching up on household chores. Or only let yourself go to your very favorite restaurant whose hamburgers you crave while spending time with a difficult relative who you should see more of.”
Specifically, I only let myself watch Top Chef when I’m on the treadmill. So if I want to watch the latest quick fire – it has to be while I’m running. I get the satisfaction of watching the best garbage reality TV, while not feeling totally worthless after because I got some mileage in.
Parenting hack: Mornings are tough. Then comes trying to get your kids dressed somewhat sensibly for school. Yeah, you could make it a bedtime ritual to pick out an outfit the night before. But you’re still left with the challenge of getting them to actually put it on come sun up. So why wait? Have them wear tomorrow’s garb — or most of it, anyway — tonight. A few little wrinkles in that shirt might be a deal breaker for adults, but a 6-year-old? No biggie.