Managing the Third Shift: Are You Making Time for Yourself?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Instill a routine. Continue to make these appointments for yourself. At a very bare minimum, you should have one weekly.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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?


Managing the Third Shift: Are You Making Time for Yourself? — 22 Comments

  1. Mothers have it so hard. It seems like if they have a full-time career and a family that they’re appluaded by feminists and chastised by family-oriented stay-at-home moms. If a mother is a stay-at-home mo, then she’s chastised by feminists and appluaded by family-oriented, stay-at-home moms. It’s like a no-win situation. I love my wife for what she does for our family and I support that she’s going back to school. When she’s at classes, I step right up and help with the girls. But I just hope she doesnt’ get any guff from anyone about her deicsions.

    • Great points! It’s often difficult to navigate these waters–especially given recent societal shifts. When some believe in the “old school” ways and others are more progressive, it can be difficult to get behind decisions 100%

  2. I think in today’s world this is not just a woman’s problem. I find myself spending a ton of time on my blog and should probably make some more time for myself. I also have a lot.of house improvement projects in the works.

  3. I think it’s important for any parent. Especially if you’re the primary caretaker. That me time is what keeps you sane; I need to work on managing my own better. Thanks for all the tips. In a lifestyle that seems to require eternal flexibility, I think the one I’ll have the hardest time with is making it non-negotiable.

    • You’re welcome! I think the biggest struggle is finding a way to juggle all of our respective duties/obligations/responsibilities. Flexibility can seem quite nice on the surface, but it can also wreak havoc on securing that coveted “me” time as you point out!

  4. Some very good points here… Actually scheduling a set time for yourself is important. But depending on what you do with that time,if you are too caught up in a given project, it may just be too easy to give it up.

    Another strategy that I’ve found useful is enlisting others to “pull me out” when I get too engrossed in my work. It’s much harder to avoid the persistence of a friend or family member.

  5. Good post! Keeping to a schedule as much as possible is so important. Even when it seems impossible to have a schedule, it’s vital to try. After a while the schedule will become more of a habit and relieve some of the daily stress. That makes such a huge difference.

  6. Let’s face it, the majority of household-running still falls to women. In our house, with two adults working fulltime and coming home tired at the end of the day, it’s hard enough to keep up with cooking and cleaning. I have zero idea how we’ll cope later on when we want to have kids.

    • I keep saying the same thing.Both my hubby and I work full time and always feel like we are running around frantic trying to get things done. I seriously wonder how we are going to manage with kids. I am hoping we will just figure it out and adjust.

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