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4 Steps to Reclaim Your Life: Step 2 - Engage Your Village – My Au Pair and Me

Hi, Maddie here. I used to laugh at the term work-life balance. As a young professional my idea of work-life balance was to work, then figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it. Then, in my late twenties I decided to add graduate school to my more than full time job. At this point I thought I had work-life balance all figured out. I could dial into my classes wherever I happen to be in the world, I worked on homework whenever I could fit it in, and I could do cardio while reading. No problem!

Then entered my first management position and a year later we decided to start a family. At this point I had finished graduate school and I wasn’t traveling much. It seemed like as good a time as any for our first child. I was so unprepared to actually manage my work-life balance!

In this 4 part blog series I will detail the techniques I now use to reclaim my life when things get out of control. It is an ongoing battle, but one I happily fight to stay sane and fulfilled. Check out part one of this blog series in Say “NO”.

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Create a village to improve your work life balance

You can’t have it all if you plan to do it all by yourself. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Look around at the people in your life. Chances are they are looking for help as well. By coming together to create a village you can gain economies of scale and save everyone time and energy.

How do I engage my work village?

One way to engage your professional village is networking. Have a hard problem to solve? Start asking around. I very rarely find a problem that someone in my network hasn’t already solved. I refuse to spend time reinventing the wheel. More likely than not, my colleagues are happy to share their process and tools. They are also honored by the spread of their hard work.

As I progressed up the career ladder, I learned to effectively delegate. Transitioning from a strong independent contributor to a manager was eye opening. Faced with tight deadlines, I had the choice to work ridiculous hours or effectively delegate and trust my team to deliver. By setting a clear vision and empowering my team we were able to deliver without burning out in the process. Need help? I recommend reaching out to your mentor. Mine gave me a copy of the book Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders By L. David Marquet. Marquet highlights the impact of a leader’s actions on their team in this quick read. He helped me to reflect on my behavior and offered techniques to help me become a better leader.

How do I engage my personal village?

Start to build your village at home by asking for help. I’m not talking about a one off request like ”honey, will you please take out the garbage.” I am talking about completely handing over a task from planning to completion. When I started traveling two or more weeks a month I asked my husband to take care of paying occasional bills. This worked fine for a while, then we missed a homeowners insurance payment. Oops. Our bank notified us of the oversight several months later. They had taken out a homeowners insurance policy for us at a significantly higher rate. My husband figured out how to fix the insurance mess while I was in Europe. We also decided that it was time for him to take over all the bills. He takes care of everything, now. Including our budgeting and working with our financial advisor.

Another way to engage your village is to offer help to your neighbors or close friends. I offer to take on tasks when they are convenient for me and my friends offer the same in return. We have a friend join us for dinner every Tuesday night. She appreciates the hot meal and the excuse to leave work on time one night a week. In return, she picks up a few things at the grocery store for me and helps to get my kids to bed when my husband is traveling. We also both get the added bonus of seeing each other and venting about life.

How do I grow my personal village?

Are you finding that your village is too busy or too small? I have two solutions: make friends with your neighbors and outsource where possible.

There are many ways to get to know your neighbors. I joined my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Buy Nothing allowed me to reduce my clutter and gave me the opportunity to meet new people. Now that I have children, I make an effort to talk to the other parents at the bus stop and school functions. I have also made friends by going to my local gym at the same time every week.

What Is An Au Pair

You can also grow your village by outsourcing. Of course, this assumes you have some extra income to devote to freeing up your schedule. I started by hiring someone to clean my house once a month. Eventually, we added a second monthly cleaning. Next, I hired someone to take care of my yard maintenance. Instead of cleaning and mowing, I now spend my weekends on adventures with my husband and kids.

If you have kids (and a bedroom to spare) I highly recommend hosting an au pair. My au pair watches my kids up to 45 hours a week and we pay less per month than daycare for my two children. I come home to clean children with packed lunches and picked up toys. My au pair takes care of the kids laundry, manages their activity schedules, and starts dinner for the family. New to au pairs? Check out our blog What is an au pair?

How do you reclaim your life?

Have you created a village to help bring your life back into balance? Leave a comment for us below or join our group of au pair host parents in the My Au Pair and Me Facebook Community. We would love to hear from you!

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