After a long day filled with projects, meetings, and deadlines at the office, you race home in time to put dinner on the table, help your children with their homework, and squeeze in a few loads of laundry. As you tuck your children in for the night after a few bedtime stories and slip back downstairs, you make a grocery list, check some emails, and prepare for the meeting you’re leading the next morning. You’ve just successfully navigated the first and second shifts of your day.
But what about the third shift?
For most women, managing the third shift—time for them when they can truly unwind in a guilt-free manner—is the toughest role of all. The caveat? Successful management of the third shift can mean the difference between feeling like you’re constantly spinning your wheels and feeling like you’re living your life in balance.
Signs That Your Third Shift Management Needs an Adjustment
Perhaps you are (or know) a stay-at-home mother who constantly over schedules appointments, classes, sports, etc. in an effort to overcome the perception that a full-time mother has ample amounts of free time. Or perhaps you are (or know) a woman who’s attempting to climb the corporate ladder but feels conflicted about managing work responsibilities while simultaneously raising her children.
In each scenario, the woman must manage the external forces of career and family while also managing her own internal forces: Who is she? What matters most to her? How does she juggle multiple responsibilities in a meaningful way? How does she make (and take!) time for herself without disappointing others? Furthermore, in each scenario, the woman has lost focus of her own needs and most likely struggles with making those needs a priority; in essence, she’s lost her ability to manage her third shift.
Making Your Third Shift a Priority
In order to manage your third shift in a positive way, you need to make it a priority. That means you need to make yourself a priority. It’s no secret that this can sometimes be an incredibly difficult thing for today’s woman to do. But it’s necessary; it’s a crucial component to managing all three shifts of your life in a harmonious way.
Here are some things you can do to make your third shift a priority:
- Make “me time” non-negotiable. Take out your calendar, find a free block of time (even 30 minutes!) and schedule a solo activity that you love. It could be reading, yoga, even a bubble bath. Keep that appointment and revel in the down time.
- Instill a routine. Continue to make these appointments for yourself. At a very bare minimum, you should have one weekly.
- Compromise. It’s easy to make these appointments, but it’s not so easy to actually keep them. Furthermore, it’s not very easy to navigate the emotional side of doing so. Feeling guilty or questioning your motives can be part of the territory. When these feelings start to creep in, a compromise is a necessity (for example, if you want to attend a yoga class on Sunday morning—at time when you usually cook a family breakfast—consider changing the family routine to a brunch-based activity and find something else for the kids to do while you go to yoga).
- Reduce expectations. Realize that you do not need to prove that you’re Super Woman. It’s OK if your house is messy for a day or you serve chicken nuggets for dinner one night. Remember, the key here is balance and a give-and-take mentality will get you closer to your goal.
- Realize your value. Above all, you must take to heart the idea that you’re worth the effort. By making your third shift a priority, you’re making a statement that reverberates in many realms: YOU are worth every second of a healthy, balanced life.
So, do you struggle to maintain your own third shift? What kinds of things have you tried to find balance?