If you have read The Unfinished Lesson for awhile, you may have noticed that I write quite a bit about balancing priorities & creating a studio environment that works for the individual teacher. So, why am I so passionate about work-life balance?
Once upon a time …
I decided to become a teacher. Well, technically I decided to be a part-time librarian, part-time music teacher, teach piano after school, travel the world as a concert pianist on school breaks & have 15 children. Then, I realized that being a concert pianist was a lot of practice, worked with a mean librarian, babysat for the first time, & realized that teaching in a school would be more than enough work. So, I decided to become a
part-time librarian, part-time (maybe music) teacher, teach piano after school, travel the world as a concert pianist on school breaks & have 15 (maybe) 2 children. (As an adult I think, “There was no work-life balance in that original plan!”)
However, I have had a long history of pushing myself beyond what my body can handle. My last week of high school was spent on bed rest after my hemoglobin levels dropped dangerously low. The first week of exams was spent also on bed rest with me leaving home only to write the 2 provincial exams my teachers couldn’t get me out of. My first year of university, I spent 2 months not able to use my right arm at all as I dealt with depression & a recurring strain injury. Considering I lived on my own, it was a challenging time.
A love of teaching that wouldn’t stop
Once I graduated, I began teaching in Mexico. It was a great time & I learnt a lot. One of the schools even had 2 full time staff members whose sole focus was teacher development. Re-writing textbooks, creating materials from scratch … no problem!
Even after I came back to Canada, staying late at work, working on teaching stuff at home in the evening or weekends … I loved it! While the 80-hour weeks during report cards & IPPs (individual program plans) weren’t great, the 60 hour weeks were just fine. I loved my life. Even if there wasn’t much balance between work & my personal life.
The stork delivery that changed it all
Then, we had our twins. I’ll fully admit that I spent my maternity leave eager to get back in the classroom. But, it turns out that I had changed more than I thought. The 60-80 hour weeks took me away from my family too much. The lack of sleep meant it was harder to deal with stress. Honestly, there wasn’t any work-life balance to be found.
I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be. I wasn’t the wife I wanted to be. And, I certainly wasn’t the teacher I knew I could be. Something had to give.
After one semester, I had lost too much weight & my home life felt like it was in shambles. At work, I had gone against my better judgement & ethics more than once because I was told I had to. Things finally came to a head at work. My husband & I had a heart-to-heart on the way home one evening … he was more than happy for me to leave my job. But, I still worried if it was the right decision.
I talked with my Dad, who had stayed in a job for decades to put food on the table. Circumstances meant he had to find new work in his 50’s … turns out he loved it & started a business. I asked him if, knowing what he knows now, if he would have stayed in that job. Without a second of hesitation, he said “No!” So, with careful planning I turned in my letter of resignation.
Years of saying that I would NEVER be a stay-at-home mom went by the wayside. I don’t regret the time I spent with the twins … & I now do my best to avoid using the word “never”. But, eventually my husband & Mom encouraged me to get back into teaching. “Why not teach piano? You used to enjoy it!”
Back in the proverbial saddle
I am meant to teach. No matter what has happened in my life, I have always gone back to it. But, that doesn’t mean that I had fully figured out how to have work-life balance yet.
The first years, the twins heard a lot of “Mommy doesn’t have time for that now. I need to get this finished!” I hadn’t learnt how to budget my time effectively & needed work a lot while they were home. But, each year I modified policies & defined my boundaries so that the balance between work, personal & family life became better.
Teaching … MY way
These days, every decision I make for my business goes through a filter of how it fits into my ideal life. While I love being a mom & wife, I also know I need the challenge of my own career & personal growth. The filter takes into account actually having a work-life balance!
Before I didn’t have boundaries when it came to my professional life or balance with my personal life.
I may not have a huge studio, but my life (& income) are better for gaining that balance.
What work-life balance looks like in my studio
Scheduling is based on the days & hours that we are able to provide childcare for our kids. Both my husband & I saw how our parents managed having a parent (or in our case, loved one) with the kids at all times. Each year, my husband & I talk about what our kids will need from us the next year as well as how that schedule will work. We work as a team.
My studio policies are based on providing professional, consistent & fair procedures for both my clients & myself. If something was eating into my personal time too much, the policy changed after researching options to find the solution that best fit my studio. The result is that I can state the reasoning for every single policy that is in my contract. No longer do I feel that I need to go against my ethics or stick with a bad judgement call. Being my own boss has allowed me to take ownership of those choices.
And the way I interview & choose clients has also changed! Clients are chosen based on how well I think we will work together & how respectful they are of the boundaries I have set up. When I am teaching or working on my business, that is my focus 100%. New clients are told that I give that same focus to my family so everyone gets the best of me.
Living the life YOU want
So, now that I’ve described my journey …
How are YOU creating the life want? Each of us has different priorities or things that gives us fulfillment. Are your studio policies matching yours?
[NOTE: This is a rewrite of an article from Feb. 24, 2017. It has all the insights from before, plus more!]