From the category archives:

Work Life Balance

Second Best

October 21, 2013

By Gabrielle. Incredible chalkwork by Rajiv Surendra.

After finding this interview, I want to read Debora Spar’s book, “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.” Among other gems, she’s popularizing the term satisficing, which essentially means settling for something that is second best. You might not be the CEO, but you are recognized as a key contributor at work. Maybe you missed every PTA meeting last year, but managed to sit with your family nearly every night at dinner.

We talk about this topic so much here on Design Mom. Some days, it’s crucial for us to somehow achieve perfection in the work-life balance. Other days, we’re just happy if we’ve managed a shower before the day ends! Turns out, it’s all about manageable expectations. While none of us is seeking out mediocrity, we really do need to cut ourselves some slack when we’re not standing at the top of the mountain. Maybe we just need to climb a different mountain!

And here’s what she has to say about high school students:

“They’re coming out of high school exhausted. The pressure in high school is killing these kids. By the time they get to college, they have been fighting for three or four years to get the perfect SAT scores and get into AP classes. It’s a much wider set of pressures than when you or I experienced growing up. It’s not just grades, it’s extracurriculars. I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve seen who have started their own NGO’s before they’re 18. Most people don’t know how to change the world by the time they’re 18. You see it particularly in the city, where most of the schools require community service. There’s something deeply oxymoronic about required volunteering. They have to have community service, they have to have sports, they have to have been president of a club. It’s just too much.”

What do you think? Does the idea of “satisficing’ appeal to you? And for those of you with high school students, have you felt the pressure? How do you and your kids, not to mention their school, deal with it?

P.S. – The one thing that troubles me in the interview is the discussion of Ms. Spar’s breast reduction at the age of 21. Apparently, her breasts were too much of a professional distraction. Thoughts? I’m sure you have some good ones!


Balancing Act

May 28, 2013


By Amy Hackworth. Image by Violet May.

My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, and not just when it comes to food. I’ve always had an appetite for more projects than I can finish and more interests than I can handle. I can’t help myself—our world really is full of a lot of wonderful things.

Though the data seemed to prove otherwise, for a long time I believed there was room in my life for everything that interested me. I could sew beautiful quilts and also write beautiful stories. I was sure there was room for both, and more, and I held out hope: there had to be a way to do it all.

I realize now that I imagined a few mystical hours in the day that I just hadn’t found yet. Maybe if I kept searching, maybe if I got up earlier or learned to work faster, I’d be able to squeeze in all the quilting, reading, teaching, writing, volunteering, gardening and redecorating I imagined, plus do art projects with our boys and learn graphic design while I DIYed a remodel of our sweet 60s bathroom.

Balancing act ahead, keep reading!


By Amy Hackworth. Bookshelf Christmas Tree by artist Michael Johansson.

It’s early December and I’m struck with a flurry of nerves about the next few weeks. Not an onslaught of panic, just a quiet, persistent worry: will we have the magical holiday season I dream of? Will our family activities be as packed with meaning and fun as I hope they’ll be? Will I really manage the sugar cookies, advent calendars, decorations, Christmas cards, gingerbread houses, secret Santas, church parties, school parties, and homemade gifts, while teaching our boys the true meaning of Christmas?  Will I — for once — go to bed at a decent hour on Christmas Eve?

I turned to the internet for some advice. I typed “managing holiday” and Google auto-suggested “stress.” How did it know? When I saw articles from health care sites like the Mayo Clinic on the list of results, I realized that feeling overwhelmed by the holidays might be as much a cultural phenomenon as celebrating them.

Keep reading for my best suggestions for curbing holiday stress.


This post is Sponsored by Clorox. Help stop the spread of germs with Clorox® disinfecting products.

I’m working with Clorox on a little series about what it’s like to be a new mother. What is it like? It’s awesome! And also: really difficult! I remember a day shortly after Ralph was born, I was feeling so good that day, so accomplished. I started thinking about WHY I was feeling so good and realized it was because I had managed to shower. When it hit me that my big accomplishment for the day was showering, I could not have been more shocked! I realized I needed to change the way I approached the day — that my pre-baby methods weren’t going to work any more.

One of the things that really helped me adjust to my new parenting life, and find some sort of work-life-balance, was figuring how to use smaller blocks of time. I might have an hour’s worth of laundry to wash and fold and put away, but I didn’t have a full hour to dedicate to it. Instead, I had to grab 15 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes during the baby’s nap, 5 after dinner and another 10 minutes when the baby was in bed. It’s not ideal, but for me, it has become second nature.

Taking advantage of small bits of time is actually one of my favorite parenting tricks. I’ve found that even a bit as small as 3 minutes can offer enough time to make me feel like I accomplished something practical and useful that day.

Five things I love to do when I find myself with 3 spare minutes:

1) Make an appointment. I always have an appointment that needs to be made — for the doctor or dentist, or for a haircut. And it doesn’t have to be an appointment. ANY practical (short) phone call is perfect. Today, I made a phonecall to order more firewood.

2) Read a book to June. Pat the Bunny only takes about 60 seconds. I can read it 3 times and June feels loved and attended to.

3) Put in a load of laundry.

4) Sit still and put myself in a better mood by doing something centering like deep breathing or a little prayer.

5) Check on my family’s blogs. : )

How about you? Do you work with small increments of time? What would you do if you had 3 spare minutes? I’d love to know!

P.S. — I bought the watch at top for Ben Blair at Muji. I love that the face is so simple!


Work Life Balance: Part 2

September 7, 2011

Poster by Anthony Burrel. Spotted on Joy Ever After.

Hello, Friends! Are you ready for part two of the Work Life Balance Series? I have five more thoughts to share with you — some are more “work” related. Others focus more on “life. Plus, I’ve included some really great quotes from Design Mom Readers.

Once again, I’ll point out that these are things that have worked for ME, but may or may not work for you. Feel free to agree or disagree and definitely feel free to share your own thoughts. I LOVED reading what you had to say on the last post. It’s such an important topic. The more we disucss, the better! Like last time, each thought has been distilled to 140 characters or less, so it’s easy to share.

Click here to read more thoughts on Work Life Balance.


Work Life Balance Project

August 23, 2011

The questions I find in my inbox the very most are always about work life balance. What does my day look like? How do I make time to blog? How do I do it all? The answer: I don’t do it all. I think doing it all is a myth. But I do know a few tricks. So today, as part of my ongoing 5th Anniversary celebration, I’m launching a Work Life Balance Project.

Like many parents, I’ve become an accidental researcher on the topic through trial and error, and by studying what seems to work for other people. I’ve decided to write up some of the things that have struck me. As part of the project, I’m intentionally making them easy to share. Each thought is constructed in less than 140 characters and I’ve included a hashtag (#WorkLifeBalance). If you read one that strikes a chord with you, hopefully it will be easy for you to share on Twitter or Facebook (or wherever it is you do what you do).

The term #WorkLifeBalance is probably not exactly right, but it’s as close as I could get. By “work” I’m thinking of the sorts of projects we do outside of parenting — PTA meetings, a job, scrapbooking, etc. By “life” I’m thinking of relationships and family time. Of course, there can be some overlap, this is just the general thinking on my part. Some of the thoughts will lean more toward Work and some more toward Life.

To be clear, these are things that have worked for ME. They may not work for you at all. Some you’ll agree with. Some you won’t. That’s definitely okay. This is an important topic and the more thoughts and ideas we share, the better. The thoughts are intended to spark conversation and discussion and I hope you’ll add your wisdom to the mix. I love being intentional about how we live our lives and design our days.

Click here to see the first 5 thoughts on Work Life Balance.

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