The average mom works 14 hours per day, students estimate, which equals 98 hours a week – more than two full-time jobs. Of the 2,000 women surveyed, the moms averaged an hour and seven minutes of time to herself. Moms everywhere are wondering how to achieve work-life balance – in realistic ways – and local life coach Sue Birkham has five tips for making that happen.
Birkham, of Berkley-based Freedom Life Coaching, says she once worked more than 40 hours a week at a corporate job.
As a single mother, she juggled life and eventually it threw her a curveball and she got sick and ended up in the hospital. After that incident, she made the decision to make more time for the things that mattered to her and help others find a balance in their lives, too.
The first step, Birkham says, is to identify the important things in life, which is a very personal thing. It doesn’t look the same for every mom. For some, she says, it might be time to work out. For others, she says, it’s more time for family.
“Start by identifying what is balance for you. What’s suffering? What are you looking for? What does that look like and why do you need it? It’s a very individual thing,” Birkham says. “Once you do that, you need to remain flexible as you work to achieve it. Balance doesn’t happen overnight if you are living in imbalance.”
Birkham says sometimes things get in the way and temporarily derail a plan, but it is important to go back to the original plan and start again.
“There is an invisible manual. It’s not written by us; it’s created by society. It creates an image of women who do it all. We as women try to live up to that image and that’s what creates this imbalance,” says Birkham. She says one of the important steps is to say “no.”
She teaches clients to say “no” in a nice way. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be mean, and she says women need to only say “yes” to new responsibilities if the activities are heart-centered.
“We don’t want to live in a world of regret. Don’t regret saying ‘yes.’ Buy yourself some time and think about it, check your schedule and don’t commit immediately,” she says. “Say, ‘Can I get back to you on that?’ You want to be able to say ‘no’ in a nice way. You can say something like, ‘I’ve looked at my schedule and I’m committed to other things,’ but also don’t apologize for having to say ‘no.'”
Find the time leaks
Birkham recommends everyone creates a pie graph of the activities that take up their time. She says the areas that cause flat sides, or would cause a bumpy ride if the pie were rolled like a wheel, are the time leaks – minor hindrances when it comes to how to achieve work-life balance that can really pile up.
“Time leaks are any conscious or unconscious behavior that has no value. This includes TV and social networking. We want to look at everyone else’s lives and we’re not pay attention to our own. That eats away at the time you want for yourself or your family,” Birkham says.
And, after all, quality time matters more than quantity, experts and studies say.
Get enough sleep and exercise
“If you don’t make your health an important part of your life, you’re going to get sick. Eating, sleeping and exercising are important to having more balance in your life. If you are rested, nourished and you have more natural energy, you’ll make better use of your time, you’ll make better decisions, you’ll be more focused and you’ll have more patience,” says Birkham.
She says even parents of newborns need to make sure they share the nighttime responsibilities so that both parents are getting enough rest. And focusing on ways to create a good workout routine that fits your life is key, too – even if it’s just a quick workout at home.
Birkham is one of nine kids, and growing up she had to take on certain responsibilities early in life to help out her family.
“Today’s parents do way too much, as a result, we have kids who don’t know what to do. Put your kids to work if they are old enough,” Birkham says. She recommends age-appropriate chores for children like folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher and helping to keep the house clean.
Overall, Birkham says that mothers need to feel confident in what they are doing and not let society make them feel like they are failing.
“Just be OK with the best you can do. You don’t have to be better than your best.”
This post was originally published in 2017 and is updated regularly.