Moments of balance are enough

By April Beane, senior writer, Office of Marketing and Communication 

Interestingly, the hardest part of writing this blog post — which is part of a new series of posts on work-life-balance — was finding the time to write it.

I just want to say right out of the gate: I believe attempting to achieve work-life-balance is a Sisyphean task. As a full-time working mom of two kids, Aidan (9) and Parker (5), I have learned to embrace the chaos of my life. That way, I can truly recognize and relish in the flashes of balance and moments of contentment when they are earned or stumbled upon.

To help create these short periods of balance, it takes preparation, strategy and, most important, advice from those who know more than you. Jeanne Ezzell is one of those individuals. She works full time for Students Educational Services, has five children — Zac (21), Jenna (18), Austen (16), Nick (16) and Amanda (15) — and is contemplating going back to school for her master’s degree this fall.  Here’s her advice:

1. See yourself as successful.

“I look at successful women as being not just so because they manage their job and their home life but because they manage it and they are happy and fulfilled,” says Jeanne.  Jeanne’s vision of success came from her boss and mentor at Marquette, who taught her “to find the time to see yourselfas successful and not just through your children’s eyes.”

A common example: Your child asks if he can have a sleepover, on a school night, with his friend right there. “They may think I am evil for not granting the sleepover at 10 p.m., but I just let that go,” says Jeanne. “I learned how to not let their frustration or disappointment in me being parental affect me.”

2. Don’t assign chores. Set expectations.

Most parents ask their children to help around the house — make their beds, do the dishes, put their dirty laundry in the hamper (not next to it). Jeanne believes there is a big difference between assigning chores and setting expectations, something she discovered after having lunch with a friend who has 10 kids.

Austen (17) checking off his Monday expectations as completed.

“We came over for lunch, and after we were finished all the kids worked to clean it up. The 3-year-old’s job was to throw away the napkins. Each had a job. There was no fuss. No chaos. I knew I had to change how I approached it.”

According to Jeanne, all family members are expected to help because they are a part of the family and because “I can take away things if they don’t.” She is referring to privileges, such as the computer, TV or a popsicle treat — depending on the child’s age.

“The one my kids always refer to is the wheel,” she says.  When her kids were younger, she divided the house into sections and placed the section names on a board-game-like spinner — wherever it landed was each kid’s expectation for the week.

Today, Jeanne uses a dry erase board, which she updates with her weekly expectations for each child. The list is in place as much to teach them responsibility as it is to give Jeanne a flash of balance at the end of the day.

“If there are no extra toilet paper rolls out or the magazines are messed up, I don’t care,” says Jeanne. But if there are dishes in the sink … that is the job I always give to somebody. I assign them whatever I feel like I need to have done, so I don’t feel like I am walking into chaos.”

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