Balancing Work & Life (Or Not)

Balancing Work and Life

I’ve been thinking about work-life balance a lot lately. It’s a topic that I discuss on a weekly basis with guests on my new podcast, and it’s at the forefront of my mind as I start preparing for the arrival of baby #2 in three short months.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with a new friend (hi Amy!) who has followed my blog for a long time, and our conversation has been centered around — you guessed it — juggling the responsibilities of a career, owning a business, and being a mom. Amy posed some questions about how I divide my time and keep all the plates spinning at once, and since I receive these types of questions pretty often, I decided to lay out the details in a blog post.

Before I dive in, though, I want to add the disclaimer that in no way do I think I have found the perfect balance. In fact, I don’t think that exists for anyone (and if you disagree, I want to know your secrets). But after months and months of trial and error, the way I have organized my life finally works well for me and my family. Just in time for it all to go out the window with a newborn on the way…HA!

The “Categories” of My Life

I have color-coded calendars in my iCal to keep track of all the different categories in my little world, and they are my lifeline. If something is not entered into my calendar, it just doesn’t happen. Period. Going into each new week, I have a general idea of how my schedule will work and how my time will be divided, though the specifics may change based on my current project and obligations. Here is a breakdown of those categories and how they all fit into the puzzle.

Client & Student Contact Hours

The bulk of my work is direct service in the form of music therapy sessions, lessons, and early childhood music classes. I spend an average of 4 hours every day (3-7 pm) in addition to one morning per week and Sunday afternoons for several months out of the year. This schedule does not really change; it’s the one “category” I can rely on to be pretty consistent from week to week.

Business Development & Administrative Duties

As a business owner, there are things I have to do in order to keep it chugging along. These include invoicing, scheduling, returning emails, ordering supplies, planning, maintaining the website, and so on. I am super lucky to have an amazing business partner in my private practice who helps shoulder these responsibilities; joining forces with her in mid-2014 was one of the best decisions I have made thus far in my professional career.

Speaking of making good decisions, another one of those is the reason I am able to complete all of my business-related tasks and creative work (which I’ll talk more about in a minute). That decision was enrolling my son in daycare part-time, which I wrote about in detail here. In all honesty, my business and creative work suffered a little from the time he was born in June 2013 up until he began daycare this past December at 18 months old. I was trying to fit that work into the nooks and crannies in between being a mom, and it wasn’t working for anyone.

Devoting specific time only to my business and creative work has been a GAME CHANGER and has improved my life ten-fold. The 3 golden days I have each week to tackle that work are precious to me, but not as precious as the other days of the week when I can fully concentrate on being an awesome and attentive mom.

Creative Work

My creative work doesn’t actually feel like work at all to me. Songwriting, recording, blogging, podcasting, creating new programs and products — these are the the things that recharge me and keep me motivated. My version of self-care, if you will.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the aforementioned golden days, are when I plan out and complete most business/admin responsibilities and the bulk of my creative work. After my early childhood class on Tuesday mornings, the rest of those hours until 2:30 each day (when I leave to head to the studio) are mapped out according to my priorities for that week. I try to do the things that require the most creativity and brainpower early in the day, and save other things like podcast editing and returning emails for later when I hit that afternoon slump.

Although I get the majority of my to-do list done during those hours, that is not to say I don’t spend naptimes and post-bedtime hours working. Someday I would like to get to the point where I don’t have to, but the reality is that is the nature of being a business owner right now.

Household Responsibilities

Grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and other household responsibilities are total nook-and-cranny activities for me. I’ll go grocery shopping on the way home from daycare drop-off, or if my husband takes Parker somewhere during the weekend. I’m kind of a clean freak, so I like to clean as I go and then find pockets of time here and there to vaccum, dust, and tackle bathrooms. Laundry is a never-ending task, so there is almost always a load going if I’m home.

I like to listen to podcasts while I do these things; it makes me feel like I’m being doubly productive and turns mundane activities into sort of enjoyable experiences. (Well, except for cleaning toilets. That is never enjoyable.)

Family Time

Mondays and Fridays are mom days. Parker and I go to Funshop, meet friends for playdates, relax at home, and go on walks or to the park if it’s nice out. I so cherish these days, especially as Parker’s time being an only child starts to dwindle. I leave in the afternoons for work with students and clients, but eventually I would like to reduce my “work” days to 3 instead of 5 per week.

Weekends are all about family for the most part, too. Unless I have random obligations like playing a gig, working at an event, or attending a conference, my husband and I spend our time with Parker during the day and then relaxing at home after he goes to bed. Every Sunday we have dinner at my parents’ house, which is a nice way to end the weekend.

Delegation & Outside Help

My life wouldn’t work without the help of family, friends, and other essential people! I’m extremely lucky in that my parents and in-laws all live here in town, in my neighborhood no less. My mom helps with daycare drop-off/pick-up, and she also stays with Parker on Friday afternoons when I go to work. My mother-in-law also helps with Parker on a regular basis. Parker has had the same amazing sitter, Greta, since I returned to work when he was 3 months old, and she comes over on Monday afternoons.

I don’t currently have help with household tasks, but my husband and I are planning to hire a cleaning service once the baby arrives in May. That will take one responsibility off my plate as I add a HUGE (but at the same time, tiny) one.

Professionally, I just hired a project manager to help with my online business, which for the last seven years I’ve been running completely on my own. I don’t want my business to suffer again during maternity leave the way it did when my son was born, so I knew the only way to prevent that from happening was to delegate some of that work. In addition to the tasks she has taken over, she has helped tremendously with keeping me accountable and on track with all my projects.

A Well-Oiled Machine My Life is Not

As smooth as this all sounds, it doesn’t always work that way. There are bumps in the road: illnesses, stress, pregnancy-related fatigue, scheduling conflicts; but that’s life. I’m trying to learn not to let those things affect me too much, and to just roll with the punches. The lines between work and my personal life sometimes become a little blurry, at it’s in those moments when I’m super thankful that every once in a while, it’s okay to take my child to work :)

Bringing Baby to Work

I’m so interested in hearing how others manage to strike some sort of balance between all the roles in their lives, and would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or if you’re a music therapist, join me on the podcast. (And now here’s your virtual cookie for making it through this monster of a blog post!)

“Bonding” Songs for the Month of Love

Bonding Mini-Pack

I hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with sweetness! Mine was low-key and spent hanging out with my two Valentines, my husband Zach and son Parker.

It may be considered a “Hallmark holiday” by many, but there is something to be said about a day devoted to showing the ones you love just how much they mean to you. Not to mention that it’s a good excuse for photo ops like this.

Kisses from Parker on Valentine's Day

I’m all about showing love to my little cutie on a regular basis, and it’s something I encourage in my early childhood classes, as well. I try to include at least one “bonding” song in each session, meant to promote that connection between the child and his or her caregiver.

For the remainder of February, the Bonding Mini-Pack we recently released over at Listen & Learn for Leaders will be on sale for $6.00.

Each song in this mini-pack has been written or adapted by myself or my colleague Katey and utilized in our early childhood music classes. The “Bonding” mini-pack includes an instructional guide, lyrics/chords, and mp3s for the following songs:

  • “You Are My Sunshine”
  • “Sing With Me Love”
  • “I Love Your Toes”
  • “You Are My Dear One”

While you’re there, check out the rest of the early childhood music resources we have to offer on the new site. We have a new Listen & Learn for Little Ones class starting tomorrow, which means lots of fresh tunes will be added soon!

{Guitars & Granola Bars} Episode 4

GGB Episode 4 Poster

I first met Natalie Mullis way back at the beginning of both our music therapy careers, when she emailed me about a song I posted on my blog. Since then, we have followed similar professional paths by leaving full-time jobs at facilities to open our own private practices.

She became a mom to a baby boy almost exactly one year after my son was born, and it has been so much fun to keep in touch with her as she too learns to juggle owning a private practice with motherhood.

Natalie Mullis Babywearing at Work

Natalie shares how she prepped her business before her baby was born, spent her maternity leave making major changes to her private practice, and her secrets for getting work done with her son at the office in Episode 4 of the Guitars & Granola Bars podcast.

Be sure to check out the show notes page for more information about Natalie, along with links to the resources she mentions in the episode.

iTunesClick here to subscribe on iTunes, or search “Guitars & Granola Bars” in the podcast app on your Apple device.
Subscribe on Stitcher
Click here to listen and subscribe on Stitcher, or download and search the app on your mobile device.

Say Something (Loudly & Quietly)

Say Something Album Cover

I sat down a few months ago to write a song targeting the goal of appropriate voice volume for one of my music therapy clients. As I brainstormed, the song “Say Something” by a Great Big World immediately came to mind (quite possibly because 3 of my voice students were working on this at the time).

My client was working on controlling the level of her voice in certain situations, including using a loud voice when giving commands to her companion dog and talking quietly in places like church.

I pepped up the tempo, changed the words, and grabbed my ukulele to record this little ditty in one take…here’s the result.

When I use this song in music therapy sessions, I have my client fill in “loudly” and “quietly” at the appropriate spots in the lyrics. We also practice speaking in both a loud and soft voice, usually just counting to 10.

There are lots of other ways to target this goal, but it’s always fun to insert some pop culture when possible.

P.S. Did you know that you can gain instant access to a vast collection of over 200 songs (mp3, lead sheet, and instrumental track), videos, tutorials, and visual aides, plus ALL new releases from Listen & Learn Music?

Learn more about Listen & Learn Plus

{Guitars & Granola Bars} Episode 3

GGB Episode 3

Confession: I’ve been waiting impatiently for this day all week…not because it’s Friday, but because I’m SO excited to share this episode of the podcast.

It’s funny how being a mom helps create an almost instant bond between two people, and I felt that immediately during my interview with music therapist Amanda Clay. I found myself nodding along with just about everything she said, and was taking notes as she doled out tons of great advice.

Amanda shares her adventures in the pysch setting during her pregnancy and addresses the dreaded “mommy guilt” in Episode 3 of the Guitars & Granola Bars podcast.

Be sure to check out the show notes page for more information about Amanda, along with links to the resources she mentions in the episode.

iTunesClick here to subscribe on iTunes, or search “Guitars & Granola Bars” in the podcast app on your Apple device.
Subscribe on Stitcher
Click here to listen and subscribe on Stitcher, or download and search the app on your mobile device.

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