I’m a new dad, working fulltime while taking care of our baby at home. My wonderful wife’s maternity leave has been consumed, so she’s back at work. I was blessed to have a work-from-home arrangement with our organization, allowing me to attend to my daughter’s needs during the day. My wife takes the night shift in caring for baby.
Not wanting to miss out on our baby’s milestones, we decided to take care of her firsthand and not hire help. We pray that this would build our baby’s sense of security, sense of self, and holistic development.
While I’m grateful that I get to work and care for my daughter at the same time, it is serious hard work. I find myself changing diapers during conference calls, setting aside my meals and bath, and pausing from work to attend to baby. I stay up late in the evenings when she’s asleep and when it’s my wife’s turn to attend to her to complete remaining work deliverables and house chores for the day. While exhausting, seeing our baby at peace, content, and smiling at the end of the day tells me it’s all worth it.
Managing time and energy to pursue excellence at home and at work is tricky. I began questioning if work-life balance really exists. Can I really divide my time in equal portions? Do I really need that to have a quality life? Is there really a divide between life and work? Is there a standard for a “balanced” life?
Maybe you’re going through the same thing and trying to find your way towards peace, a sense of stability, and joy in the midst of a busy life. Journey with me as I share with you a few realizations and principles I encountered as I sought answers to these questions.
- Life does not start only after we step out of work. I’ve realized that the term “work-life balance” can be misleading. Work is actually a part of life. We should not pit life and work against each other, and instead find ways to harmonize our different life tasks.
- God desires for us to enjoy our work. The Bible says that work is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19). He didn’t give us this gift to make us miserable, but because He loves us and knows what is best for us. Through this gift, He could carry out His purposes in and through us. Hard-crunching moments at work teach us patience, innovation, and creativity. Tough decisions between work- and home-related priorities teach us to choose based on our values.
Work expands our network of relationships. People can be a difficult aspect of work, but they allow us to grow in grace and create opportunities for us to do good, to inspire others, to humble ourselves enough to both ask and dispense forgiveness. All these work together to make us better people.
We should change our attitude towards work. Though we know that it’s not the most important aspect of life, it is huge a part of it and it is not bad.
- The relationship between work and life is more about rhythm than balance. Rhythm adds essential “flavor” to a tune. It does not need uniform beats to sound beautiful. A good drummer should be familiar with different beats and not just stick to one pattern – lest risk making a song boring. Within the same song, stanzas can be soft and slow, then speed up at the chorus, then return to soft and slow beats, or have a different pattern altogether for the bridge and the closing. Life is like that: at times you need to sprint; other times you need to slow down. Still, at times you’re called to a mix, like in a marathon, and even to pause and stop. This applies to both work and home. Life’s rhythms aren’t uniform, so don’t try and make it that way. It’s what makes life interesting. Discern when you need to speed up, slow down, or pause and recalibrate. Much of my learning this year has been in soaking in the slow moments as well as enjoying the thrill of the roller coaster ride of life and recognizing moments of pause. Don’t wish any of it away.
- Be fully present. When working, commit fully to your work. While home with your family or significant other, commit fully to engaging with them. Pause one task if need be so you can be fully present for the other; try not to multitask. You may think you’re getting more done by doing so, but you’re probably wrong. We do best when we concentrate on one task at a time. It’s also insulting to our work and our family when we give them our divided attention.
- Be deliberate about creating moments for pause on a daily basis. Look for pockets of opportunity in your day to reflect and recalibrate. Some do this only on scheduled vacations, team building, or retreats – not bad, but once a year is not enough. God modeled good rhythm for us when He created the world. At the end of each day of creating, He took time to pause, reflect, and appreciate each day – calling out what was good – then called it a day, and continued His work of creating the next day. At the end of His creating work, the Bible says God saw all that he had made, and it was very good… (Genesis 1:31). If God Himself took time to pause and appreciate what He had completed in the day, then why shouldn’t we?
Do not end your day thinking about your weariness, complaining about what did not work, or thinking of what you have yet to accomplish the next day. Instead, simply look back and appreciate. Appreciate God’s sustenance and sufficient grace in your life.
- Seek and embrace your life’s purpose. Clarity of life’s purpose will help you decide what to prioritize, what to choose, what is truly meaningful, what to invest in for the long term and what you really don’t need in your life.
- When facing multiple tasks, identify your more important and more urgent priorities and work on them one at a time. Good time management is not about doing more things; it’s about doing more of the important things in the best way you could.
- Learn to say “no” so that you could say “yes” to what really matters. Having a baby at home made me realize that there are things that I used to say yes to that I cannot do now even if they’re for a good cause. It’s not polite to say yes all the time when in reality you know you cannot really commit to it. Be honest about your limitations and personal boundaries to others and communicate them respectfully.
- Don’t compare your life with others. Comparing yourself to others is one of the easiest ways to feel bad about yourself. You see what others are doing on social media, at work, and on television, and see how everyone seems more accomplished, better looking, or having a better time in their lives compared to overworked, underpaid you. These negative comparisons are the path to unhappiness. Insecurity and envy can easily put you off. Living to impress people or get ahead of certain individuals is a sign of not having a clear life purpose. This is not the path to pursue a thriving life-rhythm.
- Accept that you are not in control of your life’s seasons and intentionally find opportunities to be thankful in whatever season you are in. There is a season for everything, and we are not the Lord of the seasons. Gratefulness protects us from guilt and regret about things that we did or did not do in a past season. It protects us from feeling impatient and miserable over a present season that may not be fulfilling all our expectations. Gratitude will help us thrive in the different seasons of our life. God made everything beautiful in its own time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – and gratitude opens our eyes to appreciate it.
Are you ready to pursue a healthy life rhythm?
Nestor Dedel Jr. works with World Vision International as Resource Development and Capacity Building Advisor for Faith and Development. As such, he is responsible for developing learning curriculum, field implementation guidance and staff spiritual nurture resources being used in his organization. Nes holds bachelor’s degrees in both Theology and education. Nes and his wife, Hannah Filler-Dedel, are parents to a baby daughter, Samuelle Charity.