This is something that I still find I ask myself on a weekly basis. I’m often hearing Newly Qualified Social Worker or Students coming to the end of their placements starting to panic and ask themselves can I do this? Can I have the work life balance I need? Is this going to be fair on my family?
Please don’t panic, we all ask ourselves this. There are ways of succeeding with this and it takes time and confidence to make sure you get it. Or, as close to it as possible anyway.
One of the most frustrating days are the ones where I just want a good moan to my friends or family, I know how easy it is for them to say “I understand, poor you” and then start comparing it to their job. I just sit there quietly thinking “yeah, you try it, just one day, see how you get on” but I’m too polite to say it, well most of the time anyway. So when this does happen, sometimes we just need someone to agree with us and say “Yes, that is rubbish” or maybe the offer to take you to the pub, whatever works best for you J
So how do I get my work life balance?
As a Social Worker we just need to except that we will have some S***** weeks and maybe even a month. Normally they do blow over and although things are never calm we can get a ‘quieter’ week, well a little less than usual anyway.
These are some of the most heard questions/ statements I hear Social Workers asking when trying to get a work life balance;
How will I make it to their school play on time?
I’m helping other children but I need to be at home for mine!
I’m really hungry; the sun is shining should we have a lunch break today?
Can I justify leaving the computer to stretch my legs?
I have no food in the house; I can’t tell other people about what they don’t have in their house when I don’t have it myself!
It’s 5pm, time to go home, can I actually leave on time, can this wait until tomorrow?
These are just a few that I have heard. To be the best workers we can be we need take time for ourselves do the things that we enjoy and that make us happy and most importantly spend time with the people closest to us. The work is always going to be there no matter how much work we put in.
These are a few suggestions I have;
- You have annual leave and toil for a reason, so take it!
I know we will never get back all of the hours we work but taking some of this time will help us relax and to prepare us for the following months. Take a holiday, week to be at home, visit family or friends, go to a gig whatever works best for you. I know as Social Workers we can worry about how behind we can get and the build up to A/L can make us stressed and worry more; what will we come back to. The answer is easy really, there are lots of other Social Workers and if something happens whilst you are aware that’s urgent, well they can deal with it! You’ve more than likely done it for them before anyway. You need this time.
- Have time for the things that you want to do on a weekly basis.
Now this doesn’t have to take up loads of time. But you have to make a promise to yourself that this is for you. I make myself leave on time at least two evenings a week. Whether this is to go running, late night yoga, for a walk with the family, to meet a friend for dinner or to collect your baby from school rather than the after school club and go for ice cream with them. It’s about us being in the best mind-set that we can be. If we don’t do these things it builds up and we feel worse. Taking this time and getting in this habit will make us look forward to this time and will help prevent us getting in this working cycle we can easily get set in.
- Getting enough sleep. Not everyone gets this one quiet as much. But is sums me up too easily. I do not function well with a lack of sleep. I always know when I’m ready for a break or when things are starting to get on top of me, well my sleep patterns knows this before me. I’m get to this point where my notepad seems to become my best friend and sits next to my bed ready for those 3am reminders!! (my brain won’t switch off). This is sometimes the reality with our job and over time we all learn to deal and manage our stresses in different ways. This one works for me as soon as it’s written down it can’t vanish and I can go straight back to sleep. This is also the indicator that you are working too hard and you need some time for you.
- Prioritise our diary and manage our time. This one annoys me; how many times have we been told “it’s up to you to manage your diary” or I’ve gone to the manager looking lost with the 7 visits which are all due that day whilst she is asking me to do something else!! Now whilst doing this is a great tip and I am going to tell you this yes it is important. But, the sooner you get this the better sometimes it just doesn’t can’t happen and lets just accept this fact. The sooner the better. Our job is a world of unknowns and we don’t know day by day what’s going to happen and what surprise we may be faced with the next day, let alone our never ending “To do list”. Sometimes other things happen and that thing we said was our priority is now way down on the list and there are 10 other things that are more important to deal with first.
As I said life as a Social Worker can be stressful but it is also rewarding, challenging and let’s face it no day is ever the same.
I still love my job and love working with families to try and make positive changes and that is why we do this. Let’s not lose the focus on the great work that we do.
As I always say if you want any help or guidance or have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.