Work/life balance tips (hint: find a fishmonger who delivers!).

Gwyneth at home looking really balanced

Here’s my theory about balance: everyone is looking for it. Doesn’t matter if you have kids or not, work outside the home or not, are famous or not. We all want it. Especially if we are *cough* Librans.

Gwyneth Paltrow is predictably copping some flak for this particular GOOP newsletter, where she and some of her friends pass on some of their tips for “finding a good balance between having a career and being a mom”.

If only she would just acknowledge that her problems (and those of her friends) are a wee bit different to, say, those of her readers. People who can’t just throw money at the problem – because you can buy a lot of practical balance with a lot of staff. Gwyneth’s own tips included cooking a lot on the weekends (fair enough) and returning calls on the school run hands-free in whatever direction the kids aren’t in the car (sure, OK) but then she goes and mucks it up for herself by suggesting it helps if you can find a fishmonger who delivers.

I don’t need that. My fish comes in a can and is always in my pantry. Hello Sirena.

Fishmongers aside,Gwyneth also chatted to her friend, venture capitalist and mother of two Juliet de Baubigny.  Her tips really will give you a giggle although, let’s be fair, they were given in good faith and with good intentions.

Juliet’s tips on getting through the day..

  • Juliet de Baubign

    Take your iPad and Flipboard app to curate your social media while you exercise.

  • Have a blow dry once a week to save you time on doing your hair
  • Get make-up lessons so that you too can do your make-up in 15 minutes
  • Have a personal assistant to organise your day
  • Create key spreadsheets to help manage your home life; for example, travel check list (clothes, toys that each family member needs to bring with them for travel).
  • Aggregate all your medical appointments: try to do all your standard appointments on one day or one afternoon.
  • Plan ahead for birthdays, holidays. Sit down in October and pull together gift lists for the holidays. Keep the gifts in transparent plastic tubs and then wrap in groupings, tagged with a sticky label that indicates the content of the gift.  Juliet has an accordion file that is filled with birthday cards labeled by category: child birthday, adult birthday, Valentines Day, Halloween
  • Condense your appointments: find a great salon that understands time pressure and can accommodate your schedule. Juliet has a salon near her that does a facial, manicure and pedicure at the same time. Very handy indeed.
  • Schedule your acupuncture for 9.30pm at night. It’s a wonderful end of the day.
  • Shop for clothes at key moments during the year.
  • Find a great alteration person. Meet with her twice a year to review your clothes, sort out your closet, plan key looks for travel, weekend, evenings, and holiday.
  • Curate your own web: find a list of sites that really help your life.
  • At the end of each week,  review your calendar and look at the following categories: Work: did I spend my time in the right places, right meetings, impacting the highest upside situations? Home: did I have dinner with my children at least 3 times during the week? Did I read to them at least 5 times in a seven day period? My Husband: Did we have at least one dinner on our own or with great friends? Did we find time to take a walk/run/bike ride together? Monthly: did I see my girlfriends for dinner? Daily: having a really good laugh about something!
  • Organize one or two key moments during the school year to have the class over for a project so that you can show your involvement without having to be involved throughout the year
  • Get your girlfriends together – have a makeup party or a trunk show

Look, there are a few good ones in there. Be nice.

Anyway, since most of us will gobble up any tips we can (fishmonger!), we asked someone a bit closer to home and a bit less posh, the wonderful Bern Morley, blogger at the hysterically funny So Now What for HER tips for working mothers.

She writes :

  • In the morning, as you get yourself ready for work, treat your children as if they can hear as well as Marlee Matlin, i.e. not at all.  You can ask them, to their face, to get dressed, do their hair, brush their teeth, even make interpretive dance moves to this effect, but unless you are constantly onto them, you will find them still sitting on the edge of their bed, contemplating life 5 minutes before you are meant to walk out the door.

    Bern Morley
  • Read your child’s school newsletter.  This will prevent you from sending your child to school with clothes on inside out and with a purple Mohawk, on what, becomes painfully obvious as you drive into their school carpark, is NOT Crazy clothes for Cancer fundraiser day.  Reading said newsletter may also prevent your child from missing their first day of a school year.  Or so I’ve heard.
  • Always be the bearer of coffee and/or sweets at the office, especially if you work part time.  Especially if you think you’ve cocked something up that may or may not have been discovered in your absence.  No one gets cross at the girl bearing cupcakes.
  • To reduce procrastination, don’t open social networking sites until you, awww, look it’s a pony playing hide and go seek. Wait.
  • Go to an actual Doctor.  Dr Google your numb toe, and you will soon have yourself convinced that you will have to have your left foot amputated and/or die from secondary bone cancer within six months.  The time it takes for you to see Dr Jones won’t suck nearly as much time as you fantasising about whether your husband will remarry after you die.
  • If you want to be a highly regarded workmate, remember to take home your leftovers container from work.   Do not, I repeat do not, leave it under your desk to fester and make you the subject of the subsequent discovery of the inexplicable rank smell in the office.
  • Be prepared to spend some of your quality time meeting other eager school mothers at an indoor playcentre.   Straight up, get ready  for your soul to be crushed at this place.   In my experience, it will more than likely involve slightly deranged, yet much more attractive mothers than yourself who reveal they are kleptomaniacs/having affairs/legitimately want to kill their husbands  and at least one kind of ballpit incident.  To playdates at indoor playcentres, just say no.
  • Learn, in advance, how to open a chuppa chump in under 6 seconds.  Oh you may very well mock, but when you need to get the hell out the door and into the car, fecking around with the Houdini of all wrappers while the 3 year old simultaneously goes postal on the kitchen floor, will save you precious minutes and ultimately, your sanity.
  • Buy 14 pairs of school socks for your child.  This will buy you 15 more minutes in your morning routine that will not be spent muttering aloud, more than 35 times, where in the fuck do they go and making your child wear yesterdays sweaty sock again.  Believe me, tinea is far less scary than a school uniform violation.
  • Brush up on your empty threat skills.  You will be using them countless times when shuttling the kids around.  Usually with words to the effect “If you do not stop hitting your brother I will stop the car and you can walk home.  Note:  this doesn’t work well with the incredibly cheeky child who requests you drop him off at the next set of traffic lights.
  • Keeping  social events, appointments, birthdays and to do lists in your phone, a fridge calendar  and in a diary is not effective. I know, I know, it seems brilliant in theory, but unfortunately you will only put one event in only one medium at any one time, and then only check one of these, every 2 weeks or so.  Hence you might miss some important details.  Like a Dental appointment.  Or a wedding.

Mamamia contributor, Kate Hunter also tells us her pointers for work/life balance:

  • Iron only collars and cuffs and tell family not to remove jumpers. Not applicable to people in tropical areas.

    Kate Hunter
  • Keeping a checklist of items children need each day by the door is a great idea. But that’s all it is, an idea. By the time you are anywhere near the front door, you are so late there is no chance you will check it. Still, visitors will be impressed.
  • Impress on your children the importance of staying local. Before they get too matey with anyone, make sure they know to ask their post code. My children know their friends must live within a 5km radius of our home. This will make weekend and afternoon activities much more enjoyable, especially for you.
  • Pay the red bills. The rest can wait.
  • It is not unreasonable to select your children’s schools based on the fabric of the uniform.
  • If a telemarketer calls and you are busy, ask if they can listen to your 7 year old’s times tables. I actually did this and the young lady was happy to oblige and even made corrections as necessary!

So, got any tips you care to share with those of us who NEED THEM? Fishmonger? Anyone?

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