Achieving a decent work-life balance is difficult for people from all walks of life, even when they have limited commitments outside of work. For moms, this ever-elusive wellness goal becomes even trickier to manage as they balance work commitments and a pressing need to spend time with, and care for, the family each and every day. Add a healthcare career that includes twelve-hour shifts and an always-on outlook, and work/life balance can seem so out of reach that it’s laughable.
This past year, especially, has shown just how difficult juggling healthcare careers and children can be, with many healthcare workers having to take on extra hours or even stay away from home to avoid contagion while still helping the community. Luckily, we’re starting to move past those dark days but their lessons very much stand, and countless healthcare workers are considering how they can make more time for their home lives in the aftermath.
Here, we’re going to consider some surprisingly simple, but undeniably effective, ways for you to achieve that goal.
# 1 – Schedule to save time
Healthcare and parenthood are both full-time jobs that can be difficult to manage if you don’t get a grasp on your time. As well as meaning that you’re less efficient in both walks of life, a failure to schedule could see you skipping things on the to-do list and, ultimately, dropping balls left, right and center. Forget work-life balance – you’ll soon feel like a walking juggling act, and not a good one at that.
This isn’t going to make your employers, your family, or, more importantly, you, happy. Overcome this risk by getting a grip on schedules in both aspects of your life. Admittedly, this will be easier at work, where your responsibilities are probably already second nature to you. That said, even if you’ve been doing this job for years, writing to-do lists and sticking to them as much as you can around emergencies/new patients, etc. is crucial for ensuring you get out the doors on time every time.
Even once you’re home, planning things like housework vs. time with the kids is key. While it may seem a little stringent to schedule in playtime, you’d be amazed by how much more likely you are to get around to this if it’s on the to-do list in block capitals. Scheduling days for washing/cooking, etc. can also make a huge difference, freeing you to focus on these things for one or two days a week, and leaving you to prioritize being a super mom when you’re at home for the rest of the time.
# 2 – Don’t be afraid to call in help/change your hours
As much as you want to give both your career and your home life your very best, you can’t do everything at once. In fact, given that the lives of patients and children rest in your hands, burning the candle at both ends could well be considered reckless. Instead, it’s vital to realize that you’re only human and to ask for help when you need it.
At home, this could be something as simple as asking your partner to make the dinner so that you can spend that much-needed time with the kids. Or, perhaps you give your children a chore each to do before you get home so that you can spend that precious time having fun as a family. As simple as that, you’ll feel immediately as though you’re living more and working less, enabling you to get the most out of even short stints at home and arrive at work feeling refreshed each day.
At work, achieving this same level of much-needed balance can often be about changing shift patterns or simply asking for a reduction in hours. While it is true that pressures on medical staff are high and always rising, flexible hours should still be on the table if you want them. The slight downside in terms of healthcare is that certainly in a hospital setting, staff are expected to split night and day shifts fairly between them, though even here you could opt to drop a few days to manage things better. Or, you may want to consider something like a job in a medical center instead, which brings flexible working within much easier reach, and even frees the weekends to help you prioritize family life again without once dropping the ball on your professional pursuits.
# 3 – Find ways to split each aspect of your day
If you don’t learn to compartmentalize, then you’re always going to struggle to split your days and give each pursuit your best. The pointers we’ve already touched on each help with this, but you also want to think about how you mentally separate your work life from your home self. After all, you aren’t going to be the best mom if your head is still stuck on what happened with a patient during your last shift. Equally, you can’t provide the best standard of care for patients if you spend your entire shift worrying about how you’re going to potty train Alfie.
Honestly, there are a few ways to split each aspect of your day so that you can avoid these mistakes, and the option you choose is really about what works best for you. Make no mistake about it – this is a difficult challenge, especially when you’re working a career that can have such a personal impact. But, this is by no means an impossible goal, and you may actually be surprised to find that it’s often easier than you’d expect.
On the simplest possible level, setting clear boundaries with regards to your work/home life can make a huge difference here, be that with your appearance or just your habits surrounding each activity. Something as simple as changing out of your dickies scrubs from Uniform Advantage before you head home can help you to mentally compartmentalize, quite literally leaving the working day behind you and relaxing you ready for the home switch. Equally, taking the time to wash your hair and do your makeup before you leave the house each day could see you go from mom to master healthcare worker in the space of your commute, ensuring that you arrive feeling professional and ready to face another shift.
You may also find it useful to split both aspects of your day with a little me time that helps you to recalibrate and get into the headspace you need for both ‘jobs.’. There are all manner of fast-fire options for this, from having a quick bath to treating yourself to a coffee in the break room before and after your shifts. As well as helping you to stay sane, this can draw a line under work or home time, and help you to better prepare for the new challenge just ahead.
# 4 – Debrief with a colleague
The saying goes that a problem shared is a problem halved, and never is that more the case than when it comes to balancing work and home once you become a mom. At work, it’s certainly true that keeping patient struggles or complications bottled can see you worrying about those things outside of the ‘office.’ Equally, a failure to hand over each shift could see you stressing about whether this patient or that will receive medication when they should, etc. and would soon see you calling back in during your mom time.
Equally, debriefing with your partner or child care about how your kids are each day, or explaining any particular activities you’d like them to do, can help you to rest easy that all is quiet on the home front. When you get into work, this again allows you to switch off from any worries, and should certainly save you from calling home during your breaks.
Before you clock off from either job, then, you should always be sure to have a quick chat with someone about anything that’s on your mind, even if that thing seems silly. This conversation alone will help you to turn from nurse to mom or vice versa, and that’s a huge part of what the work-life balance is about in healthcare and beyond.
A final word
A healthcare career can feel a lot like an insurmountable goal for moms, and it’s too often treated as an either-or priority. But, as we’ve proven here, it’s entirely possible to be the best mom and still hold down a career in healthcare, even if the position you choose to take is on a busy hospital ward. You simply need to –
- Prioritize time management
- Accept help when you need it
- Find ways to split your days
- Always communicate
Far from just seeing you do your best at work and home, this simple checklist could help you to achieve the work/life balance that you simply didn’t think was on the cards. This is ideal for your happiness and that of your family, and your patients are sure to appreciate your efforts here, too!
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