What is work-life balance, anyway?

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 10.12.22 PMIf you’re like ….everyone I know with a business…. this entrepreneur hat is just one of MANY that you wear.

In addition to running your business, you’re also a wife, mom, sister, friend, daughter – or husband, brother, soccer coach, [insert LIFE role here].

What I’ve realized lately is how frighteningly easy it is to let the business part swallow up the LIFE part. When you enjoy your work and genuinely feel called to do it – it’s hard to separate the two!

And while some folks say it’s not necessary to separate the two, I disagree.

Especially for those of us with kiddos running (crawling, lounging) around.

In my experience, trying to be, do, and have everything at ONCE is a recipe for guilty disaster.

Earlier this year I had a game-changing aha moment about managing both biz AND fam (without all the guilt). That’s what I’d love to share with you today.

I get a lot of the same Qs – many about communication and copy, plenty about behind-the-scenes how-tos, and then the big mama Q we’re ALL looking to answer for ourselves:

How do you balance running a profitable business while still being a great wife and mom?

Here’s what goes through my head when someone asks me this:

  1. HA! Do I??
  2. Eek. Am I seriously giving off the vibe that I’ve got it all figured out?
  3. This is a reeeeally important conversation to have. I need to make a video about it.

(So I finally made a video about it!)

In this one, you’ll learn:

  • How my work-life balance shifted once I started working for myself (vs. Uncle Sam)
  • What happened when I tried to be full-time everything (hint: It wasn’t good.)
  • The aha moment I’d love to share with EVERY entrepreneurial mom on the planet
  • What it sounds like when the Blue Angels fly over our house (#gonavy)
  • My best tips for maximizing productivity (+ fun!) and minimizing the guilt

Click below to watch (or take a listen):

IN A (COCO)NUT SHELL

We can have it all. But if we try to have it all at once, we’ll go crazy.

We need to do our work because…it matters. It sets a great example for our little ones, it fulfills an important piece of our purpose, and it can change the future of our families for the better.

We also need to be PRESENT with our loved ones because…they matter. Our time together is precious, and at the end of the day, that mushy love stuff is what it’s is all about.

In the words of Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project), “The days are long, but the years are short.” (Tweet that!)

So what can we do to strike a “healthy balance”?

We can do our best to be mindful. To compartmentalize and be as present as (imperfect) humanly possible.

When it’s time to work – we really WORK. When it’s time to play – we really play PLAY.

And when we inevitably mix one with the other – we FORGIVE ourselves. For the love.

IN OTHER WORDS…

Some days we’ll work too much. Some days we’ll play too much.

As long as our work-too-much days pave the way for more play-too-much days, I think we’re headed in the right direction. (Tweet that!)

YOUR HOMEWORK

There’s no one right answer here. (And to be honest, I don’t even like the term “working mamas” because ALL mamas work – whether that involves a career outside the fam or not.) I also don’t want to exclude you if you’re child-free and have your time all to yourself (in theory). Balancing all the good life stuff is tricky. 

But it’s easier when you know you’re not alone. SO. In the comments below, tell me:

How do YOU define + create a workable balance in your life?

Can’t wait to hear what you think on this one.

To working + playing with gusto,

nik

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LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.

  1. Kristy Goodwin

    I LOOOOVE this video. Absolutely adore it. So many gems in here.

    I echo so many of your concerns and challenges, as a fellow work-at-home-muma too. It’s so hard to have lines of demarcation between work and family, especially when your family is your highest priority AND your work is something that you’re passionate about (and doesn’t feel like work at all).

    I heard a great idea once by Brooke from Slow-Your-Home about re-framing the idea of”balance” to “tilting”. It really helped me to ditch the pursuits of “balance”. Once I swapped this term it felt so much better (much less guilt). I certainly have lots of days when I’ve “tilted’ too far, but that’s where your lovely quote is so helpful about the “work too much” and “play too much days”.

    Thanks Nikki, for opening up such an important discussion. Can’t wait to hear how others cope with this balance idea.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      YES! Tilting. One or the other – but they’re all on the scale :) Thanks for sharing that, Kristy!

  2. Zoe

    Nikki! What a wonderful video and post!

    I don’t have children, and I am not a wife. But I am a long term girlfriend, and my boyfriend is also my business partner and we both feel so compelled to share what we want to create with the world that we often find it hard to stop and enjoy life. enjoy the down times. enjoy each other’s company…

    We were supposed to launch a kickstarter in 2.5 weeks and yesterday we made the brave decision not to. We realised we wanted to push our ‘baby’ (our business/movement) out into the world too quickly and not for the right reasons. So we took a deep breath and said no…and are no allowing ourselves more TIME!

    I really needed to see this video. It reminded me that balance is important, and can often often be the most helpful thing for getting your dream out there when its ready. We’re going to be practicing some mindfulness big time from now on!

    Big thanks! xxx

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Brilliant, Zoe – congrats on being honest with yourselves on that! It can be hard to snap out of it when you’re in the zone, but once you do, it’s like, “Oh right! LIFE.”

      Definitely a blessing to have something (and someone) you love so much :)

  3. Robyn

    “Here’s more Goldfish, What do you want to watch now?”

    Isn’t that the truth!

    I have a 3.5 year old and a 5 month old, I have a full time career and am slowly building a business.

    Most days I’m heavily weighted to work but my ultimate balance is based on how I feel. Days that I need to rest I’m (trying to) taking the time to rest and play, on the days that I’m inspired, I work; those days tend to be filled with TV and goldfish.

    The balance is far from perfect and in there is not enough sleep, not enough patience and too many tears.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Those feelings are so valuable, Robyn. Intuition is HUGE both in business and motherhood!

      Wishing you all more sleep + fewer tears :)

  4. Biljana

    …”just frckin’ forgive yourself”…love that line!!!; thank you for such great video and even better reminders amazing Nikki!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! I should probably set it as a reminder in my phone, Biljana ;) Glad you liked it!

  5. Dr. Tonia Winchester | drtoniawinchester.com

    Ah yes. The elusive work-life balance. (I prefer to call it life-work balance.)

    I believe the flux is the constant. To get the most out that, one must make a conscious decision to be awake in each moment. Focused, present, engaged.

    I had this silly conversation with a girlfriend one new year’s. She said, “This year I’m only doing one thing at at time. When I’m on the phone, I’m on the phone. When I’m with a client I’m WITH that client.”

    As a joke I asked, “What are you going to do when you’re Facebooking?”
    “Facebooking,” she replied.
    “But Facebooking is thing you’re doing when you’re doing other things.”

    We laughed about it, but even distractions can be purposeful you’re in them 100%. We’re learning (and slowing accepting) that multitasking is no longer a thing to brag about.

    Pick one thing. Give it your all. When it’s done, move on to the next thing.

    Trust me, bodies and minds are much happier for this.

    Thanks for the great vid!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, Tonia!

      So whyyyy is it so stinking hard to focus on the ONE thing?

      Fascinating, this mindfulness stuff :)

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. CoCo

    Great video, Nikki! And great tips! What an important topic that we all deal with. I also had a recent “ah ha” about this whole work-life balance thing. I used to think of work and life on competing sides of a scale, constantly struggling to balance each other out. And one day I thought “why is my work competing with my entire LIFE??” Work is just one aspect of my life, it doesn’t get to compete for equal time, energy, etc. Now, I picture life as a great big circle. And within that big circle are smaller circles that make up my life – family, hobbies, faith, work, etc. Work as just one aspect of my life, but it isn’t my life and it doesn’t compete with life. My life is multi-dimensional and other aspects of it deserve equal (or more) time than work. As I have shifted my mindset, and gotten clear on the legacy that I want to leave behind as my “life”, keeping “work” in its proper place has been so much easier.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Love that “it doesn’t compete with my life” point, CoCo!

      It’s hard to separate them in my brain, but in terms of my schedule and FOCUS, I’ve gotta. At least try ;)

      Will always be a process!

  7. michelle evans

    LOVE this – great conversation to have. Trying to balance the mom hat + biz hat + wife hat +++++ can be REALLY overwhelming. I try hard to be present as much as possible… but a great reminder here. Thanks for sharing Nikki!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Yes, Michelle! So lovely to know (+ see!) we’re not alone in the challenge :)

  8. Marsha Shandur

    Omg, LOVE this. You’re SO right about trying to work when kids are around – just a huge bummer for all.
    But also, I think this applies to a lot of areas – don’t try and eat and work, don’t try and make phonecalls and work. Focus!

    And forgiveness!

    Thanks for this x

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Right now I’m practicing my focus while watching Scandal. Commenting during commercial breaks. Win-win :)

      Always love seeing you here, Marsh.

  9. Cindy

    As a mom that has just dipped her toe into the entrepreneurial ocean, I found myself nodding my head throughout this video….just last week I decided that I have to wear either one hat (as a mom) or the other (as a CEO). If I feel guilty or get frustrated because of constant interruptions I realize I am trying to wear two hats at the same time….which just means I need to refocus and check which hat I am wearing.
    I feel so blessed that I even have this problem in the first place!! Thanks so much Nikki for putting into words what so many of us think.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Love that, Cindy. We’ve got to consciously check our hats! And it’s definitely a blessing to be able to spend time with our little ones AND pursue our own entrepreneurial passions. Totally agree.

  10. Karen Taggart

    Oh, Nikki, your video makes me feel SO much better!

    I’m trying to build my biz without childcare most of the time (my husband helps when he feels OK, my sister and mother-in-law help once in a while) and it’s so hard!

    And now she’s skipping many of her naps. Ugh! I’d prefer not to work after she goes to sleep, but sometimes I don’t have a choice. Stopping at a certain time is key, so I can unwind and spend time with my hubby too. But I don’t always do a good job of that either.

    I find that if I focus on her completely for a period of time she will then be fine playing or reading for a short time while I get something done. The thing I’ve let slide the most is housecleaning, but I kinda did before too. :)

    I really try to be present when I’m with her, but once in a while she’ll look down with a sad face and say, “put your phone down mama”. UGH that makes my heart hurt! I’m proud to say that has only happened a couple of times, but it’s a very big smack in the head that I sometimes need.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ahh Karen I know what you mean. “Mommy. Put your phone in your POCKET!” = major low point. Has happened at least a couple of times :(

      When my husband’s at home, he’s full-on daddy – and they wouldn’t have it any other way! I often “sneak” extra work in when he’s here because I know they’re covered, BUT I also don’t like the feeling of the tag-in, tag-out parenting.

      Working on that too!

  11. Kristi Joy

    Thanks for this Nikki!
    I am building my second website. My first I gave up on after a year of late nights/early mornings, typing while breastfeeding ( I had no childcare). I just burned out.
    Now I’m trying to make it work again –this time with two kids, and another part time brick and mortar biz. I don’t think money for childcare is in the budget since of course making more money is a big reason why I am starting this business in the first place. It is very frustrating since my time is always divided and I can never focus.
    Guess I just have to bite the bullet and keep going. Hopefully I’ll be able to afford childcare soon. No where to go but up!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      You can do it, Kristi! I get it – feels like a chicken or the egg….if you could work on your business you could make the money to afford childcare, and childcare would give you more time to work on your business!

      Highly recommend connecting with other mamas you know and trust (or meeting some if you haven’t!) so you can get have some uninterrupted time to work.

      Even if it takes you longer than it otherwise would, if you’re committed to making it happen, you will. I totally believe it :)

  12. Jen

    Thanks sooo much for this video!! I thought I was the only one playing and working and then feeling guilty, “what you want to watch next?” makes me feel horrible, but then, is hard to be present when being a mumpreneur and trying to be full time in everything, thanks so much for remind me to forgive myself cause sometimes it will have to happen so we can have more long play days…

    I absolutely love to spend the afternoon playing with my 2yo son but like you I will have to get into the habit of leaving the phone somewhere else I do carry a pen and notebook with the intention of using the phone less but evernote is just easier. Oh balance! hard to have a routing to help towards the balance.

    Thanks for being a inspirational mamma with balance or without you manage to rock and show us mammas that we can all rock too

    Thanks for this x

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks, Jen! You are DEFINITELY not the only one. And great point about the pen v. phone notes ;)

  13. Kathleen

    Thanks for this Nikki. I loved the video. As well as all these insightful comments.

    When I go out with the kids, I leave my phone at home sometimes (not all the time, as it is my ‘camera’) but when I do leave the phone at home, I’m way more engaged. That’s balance for me these days. ;)

    Not just business, but internet in general affects balance. Internet is everything now. It’s my newspaper, my library (searching for info), my cookbooks, my TV, my social life (not every second, but a lot of friends IRL and cyber hang out there too–and as someone who has moved cities and countries every other year for the last 10 years, it’s my lifeline). The internet hosts two of my business ideas, you name it, it is it.

    So use of Internet for non-businessy stuff also has an impact on being able to take time off from your business too.–if that makes sense –oh, well, since I’m checking a recipe, I’ll just see if anyone has liked my most recent pic on instagram, kind of thing.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      That’s a really good point, Kathleen – it’s the internet in general! And the teeny phone cameras sure do make the “life” stuff easier to capture.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective – love this convo!

  14. Maggie

    Nikki,

    This is my life’s message/purpose! Helping Moms and Mom Entrepreneurs handle all this “balance” (I don’t like that word) bc it makes you feel guilty either way. “Should do this, should do that” it’s all guilt and it serves ZERO purpose. Here are some of my tips;

    1: Focus on what you DO want in the moment (hint: it changes by the day and minute sometimes AKA: being present with your feelings)
    2: How do you want to FEEL? (This should be a positive feeling)
    3: Why do you want to feel that way? (This is the long term goal, ie; freedom, peace, happiness for the entire family, to share your message with the world…)

    Thinking about these 3 questions gets your mindset moving in the positive direction from guilt and victim to empowerment, confidence and love. This only the beginning. Diving deep into these feelings is where the healing and transforming gets easier. It’s scary, vulnerable and completely rewarding–just like Motherhood!

    Like you said, it’s a process and constant. We are imperfectly perfect and evolving is part of the human race.
    I hope this helps. I’d love to talk more and spread this message with you. It’s so important for Moms and Mom Entrepreneurs. Transforming. Connecting. Thriving. This is my message. I’m also a B-Schooler! You can find me there.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Love these Qs, Maggie! It’s crazy how easy it is for us to ignore (or fight with) what we actually DO want to do in a given moment. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Claire

    Thanks for answering my question from last week, this is obviously a HUGE question for women everywhere! Love your honesty as always : )

  16. Morgan

    Thank you, Nikki! Yes, this is a great conversation for mamas everywhere!

    My kiddos are 4, 2, and due in a few weeks (eep!), and my business is almost 2-years-old. So, I’ve been growing a lot of things – children, business, personal development.

    One idea that keeps resonating with me: In all areas of life, try to simplify down to the “high-impact” priorities and shrug off as much slough as you can. So, with each role, choose what tasks/activities are most important and what tasks/activities are least important.

    Using myself as an example:

    My mom role: Emphasize one period of play-time at home together every day (maybe lego construction projects during a rainy day or long, wandering walks on sunny days) and eat dinner at the table together. Tasks that are less important include enrolling for a million kids’ activities, keeping the house squeaky clean, and making gourmet meals. Rotisserie chicken = mom’s best friend.

    My business role: Emphasize one major business development project at a time. For instance, this summer I created a three-part video series to catch leads, and it took all summer, but that was okay. Tasks that are less important include keeping up with social media all the time and reading every business development book known to humanity.

    My wife role: Emphasize listening to my husband when we do have time to talk (computer lid closed!) and expressing gratitude for the ways in which he provides for our family (rather than complaining that I need more help :). Tasks that are less important include keeping up with the laundry and housework. Turns out, he doesn’t care about those things!

    When you figure out what is “high-impact” and what isn’t, you can manage guilty feelings. When I want to feel guilty about the dishes in the sink, I say to myself, “But we made a lego house – that’s an important part of me being a good mom. These dishes are unimportant to my good mom role, so I’ll deal with them later.” Sure, you’ll do the dishes later, just make sure that you don’t feel guilty about them in the meantime!

    That’s how I’ve come to deal with lack of balance, and I’m loving reading through other mom’s comments!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      So good, Morgan. Thanks for sharing your tips!

      Hope y’all are enjoying your new roomie – B’s an October baby too :)

  17. Kevin

    Keep remembering how lucky you are to get to be there with them at this crucial development years. Even if it doesn’t balance completely, your counterparts working and traveling 80+ hours and missing it all are soo jealous of you!
    I had years of both and wouldn’t trade the earlier days for anything, them cuddled on my lap reaching out with their tiny fingers to help me reply to email! Priceless.
    Being cognizant that you need some balance is good, the rest finds it’s balance automatically,

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Absolutely, Kevin!

      Helping other moms (+ dads!) realize this whole “create a profitable business from your natural skill set” thing is an OPTION is a growing part of my mission.

  18. Stephanie

    Hey, Nikki! This video really struck a cord with me. I do ALL the things you talked about that cause guilt. Mommy guilt. More than that, I seem to never really make any real progress on my business. We also are going to go through IVF again this spring so I feel stuck sometimes as to whether or not this is the right time to even launch my business. If I can’t seem to pull it together with just one child here, how on earth am I going to do it with more? Fear of the unknown is my greatest weakness. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure it resonated with A LOT of moms!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Totally get it, Stephanie. Babyproofing my business is a high priority for me! We’re not trying at the moment, but within the year I’d love to be pregnant again (not sure if you saw my story but I had two miscarriages last year).

      I didn’t start my business til B was already 18 months old, but I love posts like these for tangible ideas on how to make room for our next little one:

      http://www.luckybitch.com/2013/10/baby-proofing-my-business/
      http://www.ladybusiness.biz/pregnancypanel/

      Hope they help give you peace of mind – try to trust that you will do whatever you need to do, and it WILL be enough. Whatever it is.

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