I’ve been neglecting this poor little blog since we arrived in Australia last year. It’s a bit like how a builder’s house is always in need of some tlc because they’re so busy off working for clients. As a professional blogger and ghost writer, you will probably read lots of my words on other sites – you just won’t know they come from me!
But anyway, the main reason you’ve not seen me around here so much is the age old issue of juggling work, family and life in general. You see, back in England we had a pretty great routine going…
The boys went to pre-school around the corner three days a week. E went to a childminder during this time. I worked from home for a few hours during the day and then I did some more bits in the evenings. The kids were all home with me by 3.15pm. That left time to go to the park and have fun, cook and eat dinner, make packed lunches and then have everyone bathed and in bed by 7pm. The boys would happily play in their room for a while after their story before going to sleep. E would go into her cot awake, settle herself and then sleep through until 7am. Without fail. The next morning hubby would be up when the boys woke around 6.30am and he’d entertain them til I got up at 7am when he left for work.
I was getting plenty of sleep. I was having lots of fun with the kids. I had time to work (or relax) in the evenings. The balance was just right.
The thing is, it hasn’t worked that way since we got here. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE our new life here and it is just as amazing as I’d hoped. But now I’m doing a lot more work than I was in the UK which comes with compromises in lifestyle. I’m working as a freelance writer for clients, working on my own digital projects and writing features for publications. E is in daycare for three full days now. The boys finish school at 3pm, and on those days they go to after school care. I pick all of them up together at the end of the day after a long day working from home.
On those days (and another night in the week, when the kids have swimming lessons after school) we don’t get home til around 6pm. Then we need to cook and eat dinner, do baths, read school books, make packed lunches for four and then attempt to get the kids to bed. The boys are still pretty good at going to bed and sleeping, but E is struggling. The Groclock has helped with the early mornings, but we’re still having one or two wake ups in the night which is exhausting.
So lately, I’ve been working longer days, rushing to get the kids, having a stressful and busy evening with three over-tired kids who’ve also had a very long day, then when the kids are finally in bed asleep (maybe 8.30pm) it’s time to do the washing and tidying. By the time this is over with, I’m spent because I’m only surviving on 5 – 6 hours sleep a night instead of the 8 hours I really need. Hubby mucks in with everything too but he is working long hours and is up from 4am and working two jobs so is also shattered.
I decided enough was enough, so I’ve been trying hard to find a routine that works for our new lifestyle.
1) I meal plan
I’ve always written up a list of meals to cook during the week before I go shopping, but I’ve started planning the meals more carefully for the nights when we’re home late. On a Sunday, if I do a roast, I deliberately cook a huge amount extra then we have a reheated roast on Monday. (You can revive roast potatoes by giving them a quick microwave and then popping them back in the oven with a drop more olive oil. They aren’t quite as good as the first time round, but it tastes better than frozen veg and it stops us from ordering a take away.) Other days I’ll pre-cook a chicken and get a bag of salad for another easy meal, or I’ll use my slow cooker. On a Wednesday we nip home for a quick toastie or scrambled eggs before we go for our swimming lesson so the kids don’t have to eat when we get back other than to have a quick snack. It’s all about eating easy food that is, mostly, pretty healthy as I know if I live on junk I feel even more run down. Doing better meal plans has also cut my food bill down. Win, win.
2) I organise my ‘to do’ list ahead.
I’m trying to plan the night before what I need to achieve the next day. I try to aim to tackle the jobs I don’t want to do in the mornings to get them out of the way – otherwise I just put them off in favour of the fun stuff. I also try to allow half an hour each day to work through the bitty jobs like online banking, invoicing, making phone calls etc. If I can get these things out of the way in a block it seems to make me feel lighter – like I’ve really achieved something! It always feels good to get five things knocked off my ‘to do’ list in one hit.
3) I’m trying to not work every night.
I don’t have the energy for it most nights, as I’m dead on my feet. I don’t let myself feel guilty for taking nights off, and if I do need to work because of a deadline, I make myself switch off by 10pm and go to bed. Sometimes working nights feels great though, as it puts me ahead for the week so if I’m in the mood for it, I go for it.
4) I’ve bought better tech.
My laptop was ancient, a bit broken and running so slow. I’ve just bought a new laptop. By ‘new’ I mean second-hand but it’s a recent model, so it didn’t cost much but should speed up my work time. It’s already making me a lot less stressed out!
5) I turn off social media when I’m not using it.
I try to do social media in blocks of time rather than letting it distract me through the day. I used to spend way too long getting lost in Twitter. I miss it but I also know how it used to drain my time.
6) I’m trying to move regularly.
I’ve made progress with my attempt to carve out me time and get fitter. I’ve lost eight pounds since I started, and I have way more energy. Husband bought me a Jawbone Up for Mother’s Day and it is helping remind me to move more through the day. I always thought 10,000 steps sounded like a lot to achieve, but on the days I’ve got the three kids at home I can easily do 17,000 + steps without making any extra effort!! It’s harder on the days when I’m sitting at my desk working though, so it reminds me to get up every once in a while for a stretch. It’s also helping me keep track of my poor sleeping habits too…
7) Focus on one or two things.
I’m a creative that flits around from place to place. Something pretty or exciting is always trying to catch my eye. I’m now trying to control this. I am setting aside time to work on specific jobs and am not starting new projects until I’ve finished old ones. Although learning is really important to me (I did a travel writing course and a digital bravery course earlier this year, and I have the world’s largest stack of self-help books on my bedside table and on my Nexus) I’m trying to not get lured into anything new for the time being. I need time to digest what I’ve already learnt, read through the books I have and reflect before I start anything new.
8) Take a break.
I wish this was our camper. Alas, it’s not 🙁
While hubby is still working two casual jobs, we can’t afford the time to take a proper holiday at the moment but I want to take more mini breaks on the weekends he’s not working. We moved here to explore the country with the kids, so we need to make time to do this. We’re also hoping to buy a house soon, so we can’t afford to spend a fortune going away but there are lots of last-minute hotel sites to choose from so I’ve been looking at those. Starting in July hubby’s hours will calm down, so watch my Instagram feed to see what we get up to!
9) I’m giving myself permission to stay home.
Yes, taking a break is fun but it’s also OK to stay home, especially when the kids are exhausted from a long week at school or hubby and I are taking turns to work. Some weekends it’s just great to chill out close to home. Go out for lunch, hang out at the local beach, go to the park. I sometimes need to remind myself that we don’t always need to be doing something new and fun to have a great time.
10) Cleaning on weekdays.
I was saving up all of the cleaning until the weekend, then blitzing it on a Saturday. But this meant losing half the weekend to mundane, horrible jobs. I’m now making my weeks harder by doing a few hours of cleaning during the week. It makes me more tired at night but it frees up our weekends so that when we aren’t working we can have fun. Alas at the moment, we’ve got so much work between us that our house is in a bit of chaos, but I’m not complaining as it’s so important to take the work while it’s there with me freelance and hubby on contract work. The weekend craziness should calm down soon, so our weekends can get back to being more fun again.
11) Mind control.
It’s easy to let being busy get your down, or make you stressed. But now I’ve realised that I control how I feel. Being positive is a powerful state of mind.
I’m starting to feel a bit of balance creeping back in. I can see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s still tough during the week but then I think it always will be with both of us working. I know things will get easier bit by bit as the kids get older – especially when E starts school in 18 months because then I can work school hours every day and we can have our after school time back again. I don’t want to wish the time away though. I need to keep working on ways to enjoy the moment right now.
Just as I was finishing off this post, this post hit my inbox so I thought it was worth sharing: Busy is a state of mind.
Do you have a similar problem? Have you found the balance you were looking for? I’d love to read your thoughts in this and any more tips would be really welcome!