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Working in the Margins: Finding the Balance Between Work Life and Home Life

10 years. A decade. A lot can happen in that time. If I had envisioned in 2010 where I would be and what I would be doing in 2020, I’m not sure I could have pictured life as it is now. I was an active duty Air Force Weather Officer, proudly serving my country, but also trying to plan for a future with my husband outside of the military career I had created. I had always managed to multi-task, but it was at this point that I started to learn what it meant to work in the margins. With pharmacy school in my head, I began to take courses to fulfill the remaining prerequisites that my undergraduate degree did not require. I took night classes and online courses. I worked my schedule out to attend labs. I filled up the empty space. Or so I thought. 

With no medical background, pharmacy school had a steep learning curve. I was working in the margins more and more. I studied. I studied more. I managed a household through my husband’s deployments. I worked. I filled up the empty space. Or so I thought. 

I took on a pharmacy manager position in an “opportunity” store. I continued to work in the margins. I worked hard. I worked overtime. I filled up the empty space. Or so I thought.

I had my first child, went back to work and was REALLY learning to work in the margins. I worked hard. I worked overtime. I pumped during lunch. I pumped driving to and from work. I pumped folding laundry. I filled up the empty space. Or so I thought. 

I got pregnant again. Twins: Surprise! Gestational Diabetes: Surprise! My mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I worked full time during my high risk pregnancy while taking care of a toddler and coordinating care for my mom from the other side of the country, all while my husband traveled continuously for work. My mom passed. The twins were born. I went back to work with a broken body and a broken spirit. I pumped and pumped and pumped. I continued to work in the margins. I filled the empty space. Or so I thought.

Then, I reached my breaking point. I had shingles diagnosed within weeks of returning to work. My husband was on a work trip and now I couldn’t physically touch my own babies. I lost the balance and I HAD to ask for help. I had no time for myself. I didn’t eat right. I didn’t take time for self-care. I wasn’t physically active. I was stressed. I was exhausted. I re-evaluated where I was and where I wanted to be. I realized the empty space I was filling, was leaving ME empty. Does this resonate?

Now as I continue to raise 3 children, manage a pharmacy, consult on the side and build a business, I have TRULY learned what it means to work in the margins. It isn’t about working harder or longer, but smarter. 

1) Don’t let the margins spill over into your personal time: When the kids are napping, get to work. When they wake up, stop working. It’s ok to put it away and not touch it for a few days, whatever “it” is.

2) Maximize the empty space, MOST of the time: Use the 75/25 rule. Devote 75% of your empty space or free time to productive activities. Fitness, personal development, cleaning, meal prep, etc. Use the other 25% to give your mind and body a rest. Surf the internet. Watch that show. Garden. Sit in silence. Whatever floats your boat.

3) Take care of your body: ask a successful person what their normal routine entails and most will report items that include caring for their body. Fitness, nutrition and spiritual wellness are vitally important. They also give you more ENERGY to continue to work in the margins. 

4) Take time for yourself: seriously….this is non-negotiable. You think you don’t have time for yourself. I get it. But take 5 extra minutes in the shower to shave your legs. Or 10 minutes to put on some makeup. A few minutes in the car with your eyes closed? Go on a Date Night. You will reap the benefits.

5) Take help when offered and ask for help when you need it: This has probably been one of the most challenging concepts for me personally, but once I gave in, my balance was restored. Can you do it all? Yes, of course you can. Do you need to do it all? NO!

Our careers can sometimes be demanding and any mom knows the same can be said for raising children (or is it the kids themselves that are demanding?). Combing the two can be challenging, but you CAN do it. You CAN have it all, but only when you keep the balance. At the end of your life, no one will care how many hours you worked or how clean your house was. They will remember your laugh or your care-free spirit. Maybe your humor? If you’ve lost the things that made you “you” before your career or children, it’s time to restore that balance and get yourself back!