All professionals would agree that life in the office and life at home are two very different entities. So how do you balance the two without playing favorites? Debbie Eaton shares her personal journey of reevaluating how she delegated her time, starting with being unexpectedly let go from her job.
4word: You were unexpectedly let go from your job almost two years ago, and you credit this unfortunate event with opening your eyes to your work/life balance. Tell us more about that.
Debbie: My job loss almost two years ago came as a shock and complete surprise, not just to family and friends but also to my co-workers and those I led. Loss does funny things to us and the grieving process is long, hard, and revealing. I remember walking in the woods with a dear friend who was going through loss and her words of wisdom provided sweet comfort – grieve the loss.
Life-altering moments allow us to take inventory of life. In the months following losing my job, I allowed myself to grieve, heal, and take stock in my physical, relational, mental, emotional and spiritual health. That examination was revealing and at times heart wrenching. I was out of balance and had become blind to it. Work was the priority and everything else in my life was suffering because of it. I had to experience radical change to be able to pull back and see truth.
What followed was going through the book “The Artist Way” by Julie Cameron. This book took me on personal journey that first uncovered some unhealthy patterns with decision making and then had me reevaluating my strengths and weaknesses. The intentionality, commitment, and focus on making changes resulted in knowing the real me and how I was uniquely created. I am less hurried now and know that I am more present for family and friends. This reevaluation also led me to take time before entering back into the workforce.
As I look back on these past two years, I am grateful for the experiences in my past that have shaped who I am today. I appreciate how my family has supported me with grace and love. I don’t have balance all figured out; however I am more aware of patterns that lead to unbalance in my life. What are patterns in your life that can shift to create balance?
4word: Why do you think professionals often find themselves “giving more” at the office than at home?
Debbie: This is a challenging and revealing question because it hits a nerve of reality. Professionals often spend more time at work then at home. The responsibility to do a good job and/or not lose our job creates choices that often place tension between work and home. The drive to perform and work well with others and achieve goals will consume our thoughts. Competition, confrontation, achievement, accolades, vision, mission, importance, value, tasks, and leadership have a direct effect on balancing work and life outside of what we do. Often we confuse what we do with our true identity, and this subconsciously places enormous stress on us.
When we transition from work to home, we are tired and have to change gears as we interact with family or roommates. Often the stress of the day leaks out on those we live with. Our work follows us home. We have 24/7 access to email, incoming text messages, and phone calls. We frequently check our phones as if we are missing something, and we are compelled to respond immediately. This redirects our attention from the very people we live with, and to justify this “redirect,” we tell ourselves that our family and friends will give an unlimited amount of grace as we attend to business.
What was thought to save time is actually stealing time. Professionals have a high sense of responsibility. The desire to provide for family and others makes it difficult to draw a line between work and life outside of work. It takes intentionality to integrate both together. Is this a challenge for you and if so, why?
4word: With families today busier than ever, it’s easy to stop being “present” when you get a few precious minutes together. How are you and your family ensuring your time together is well spent?
Debbie: This is so much easier to write about than actually live out! Family time is constantly battling against the pressure of keeping up the home, checking in on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to see what others are doing and the outside activities such as sports, volunteering in school, church, and the community. All of those “distractions” are all above and beyond any responsibilities we have in the workplace. Just typing this makes me fussy and tired!
I have often told myself that my physical presence is enough after a long day, or, in the rush of the day, a quick conversation of which I am doing all the talking will suffice. I have also believed that my family will give me unlimited grace. Not so. Physical presence and time equals love to others. The intentionality of listening, caring, and relating to one another requires undivided attention.
To combat these distractions, our family values eating dinner together. The 20-30 minutes we spend at a meal become a time to catch up, be silly, and talk about what happened in the day. We put our phones away and sit down to break bread together. It has become the place for us to listen, ask questions, and understand what is really going on, and it has set the table for additional conversations that happen in the car, watching TV, listening to music and bedtime prayers.
4word: After being let go from your job, you’ve taken the past year and a half to recalibrate and invest in yourself. What have you learned during this time?
Debbie: I have learned so much in this time. First, slowing down is hard. The first few months were difficult as I found myself wandering aimlessly around, not knowing what to do. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and uncontrollable tears would come like an unexpected flood. I liked being busy because I equated it to being important and needed, yet the effects had become damaging. Unplanned time forced me to find myself.
Here are five key lessons I have learned:
- Contentment is found when I understand the true me and not what others expected or wanted of me. Slowing down to enjoy life gives me perspective to make decisions that breathe life into my soul, not suck it out of me. This is an ongoing intentional conversation I have with myself everyday, because it is easy to go back to old habits.
- Confidence in how I make decisions about what to commit my time to. I have greater clarity on how I want to spend my time, therefore knowing what is a “yes,” “no,” or “not now.” Confidence is seeking out good counsel from mentors who speak truth in love.
- Expectancy that unanticipated opportunities would come my way when I trusted the empty space given to me to rest, recharge, and replenish my soul. My world had become so black and white. Over time my heart soften and my eyes opened to the vibrant color of life. I am now expectant for the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, flowers blooming, blue skies converging with the horizon of the ocean, a quiet home when my family has gone off to work and school, and technology that connects me to people all over the world to give and receive encouragement. Expectant that people will cross my path for a reason and I have time to listen, laugh and cry with no agenda. Expectant that God has a purpose and plan for my day.
- Transparency with my story has drawn out authenticity and vulnerability in others. It has created a safe place for truth without fixing. A deeper understanding of compassion has emerged to ask more questions which may lead to unexpected answers. I know that the more in touch I am with me, the more I can be in touch with others.
- Grateful heart that time heals wounds of loss, that I have more tools to remain balance with the opportunities that have come my way. Everyday I am reminded of the precious time I am given to rest, restore and recharge so that the work of the day is not motivated by busy but by perspective and purpose.
4word: What are some tips you can share to help women learn to know God’s voice and get into His Word?
Debbie: ‘Solitude is the furnace of transformation.’ – Henri Nouwen
Our lives are filled with competing voices that create noise which can drown out God’s voice. What is amazing is God’s voice spoke the world into existence and His voice is speaking to us today.
The first tip I would give is to be relentless in seeking out quiet and solitude. It is in the quiet that God’s whisper becomes louder. I am not talking about hours of quiet, but to take moments where the noise of devices, people, work, and other distractions are set aside. It is in these moments when God’s voice prompts us to look at what is causing stress, fear, and doubt, and it is here where greater perspective can be seen and changes can be made. The quiet softens the distractions and gives focus to the Creator who loves and adores you. Solitude weaves to richer community and hospitality with one another.
The second tip is to take negative thoughts and turn them to affirmation followed by gratitude. God’s word reminds us about who we are and our identity, which is not based on what we do, who we know, and what we have, but on how we are uniquely created. Embrace you.
The third tip is go to God’s Word first so that it can work in harmony and rhythm with the circumstances of everyday life. As you enter into God’s story, you will find crazy stories of being human which give hope that redemption is found in the messiness of life. God calls us to come together with him to work it out. Then supplement your learning with devotions, commentaries, studies, podcasts, sermons, etc. to encourage and challenge so that you can apply and then pass it on to others.
Could your life use some quiet? Have you allowed yourself to get to a place where work and home balance is drastically off? Heed Debbie’s testimony and advice and begin to reevaluate how you spend your time, both physically and mentally.
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Debbie Eaton is a Southern California girl who is passionate about creating and cultivating moments of connection with others. She deeply values being a daughter of God, a wife of 29 years, and a mother of a teenage son. Debbie feels called to champion and mentor the next generation of women, whether it be through writing and speaking or just laughing over a good cup of coffee and even better with a piece of chocolate. She writes for SheReadsTruth, an advisor for IF:Gathering, consults with churches and co-leads beach retreats called Vibrant You. She was previously the Director of Women’s Ministry at Saddleback Church. She was also previously a mentor in the 4word Mentor Program.