Wouldn’t life be more pleasant if it was as easy to balance as a Libra scale? Home and work, two sides, you put the same amount into one as you do into the other and there’s perfect balance. That doesn’t sound correct, even in the perfect world. Try adding a new baby to that equation. Life is full of options and choices that affect how we balance and manage our time. I’ve found that the best way to add some sort of stability is to break it down into three steps: prioritize, compromise, and improvise.
The blessing of a child to a family is one of the greatest experiences we’ll have in our lives. But if you’re like me, a baby adds additional obstacles that you must roll with. One thing you can expect with a newborn is long nights. Different plans work for different couples, but what worked for my family, were night shifts. She would take the early shift from 8 pm-1 am and I would take 1 am-5 am. Having shifts helped us maximize our sleep while handling feedings and changings. Of course this didn’t go as planned every night, sometimes I would “sleep” too heavily and my wife got up during my shift, but for the most part it added some sort of method to the madness.
A great way to keep things in line is to prioritize them based on necessity. USING A CALENDAR CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE, whether you write it down or use your smartphone’s calendar. Only put things on there that you must do: work, feed the baby, grocery shop, church, etc. All of your extracurricular can fill in the gaps, but this helps you get into a rhythm. The quicker you grasp that rhythm, the quicker you get to normalcy. All based on prioritizing those truly important daily tasks.
Once you’ve got things prioritized, you get to fill in extra-curricular activities. This is where the compromising portion comes into play. It’s not that easy to make “spur of the moment” plans like grabbing a drink after work with friends. What works for my family’s schedule is to try and plan a month ahead (key word: TRY). With my parents living three hours away and my wife’s parents living three states away, we must plan ahead to make sure we’ve got someone to watch our boys if we want a night out. (I find the most difficult process of a night out is NOT discussing the children and actually enjoying each other’s company like you did before the bundles of joy.)
Use the same calendar that helps prioritize your day-to-day tasks, enter in two or three things you would enjoy doing for that month. Space them out so you don’t get overexcited and forget about your priorities. Maybe go to a concert the first weekend of the month, an art exhibit the third week and finish the month with a professional sports game. Whatever the activity, blend it in to your prioritized schedule.
You’ve prioritized and compromised, now improvise to bring it full circle. Improvising allows you the flexibility to keep some spontaneity in your life. I wouldn’t recommend improvising on your day-to-day tasks frequently, but if you have the opportunity to make an “on the fly” decision that won’t throw your entire schedule–go for it! In both of our cars, we have an emergency baby kit which consists of a changing pad, wipes, diapers and snacks. It rolls up to about the size of an 8.5 x 11 folder and is so convenient to decide to take a quick shopping adventure, stop for fun at the park or hit an extra workout at the gym. This allows us some freedom to make impromptu decisions without having to stop by the house and re-prepare a baby bag. Let’s say you were gifted some last minute tickets to an event. Look at your calendar and if possible, move a thing or two around to attend. I want to stress that your compromising should not overshadow your prioritizing, but you do have to live a little.
Managing multiple important priorities is a challenge. I’m not disputing that. But having a system for finding some balance helps model healthy behaviors for the young ones in the house and keeps everyone happy and healthy.