Balancing Work, Home and MS Lives
Balancing work life and family life can be tricky. It can sometimes feel like you are walking along a thin plank of wood, constantly trying really hard to stay in balance. With MS, it can seem even harder. Symptoms can disrupt plans, and frequent medical appointments and disease management can take up lots of time - the plank of wood might feel more like a tightrope.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Finding balance in your work, home and MS lives often means finding small compromises in each area:
Working it out
Living with MS doesn’t automatically mean giving up on a career. If work is important to you and your symptoms allow you to go to work, there are ways you can adapt your job to your MS and find balance with the other important things in your life:
- Adjustments to your workplace: If you work for a company, there are things you can ask of your employer and colleagues which can help. This includes things like flexible working hours to allow for your symptoms, working from home more to avoid tiring travel, adjustments to your work space to make it more comfortable and extra breaks throughout the day to rest and perhaps stretch so you don’t get stiff. Find out more about “reasonable adjustments” in the workplace and tips on how to talk about your MS at work, here.
- Going part time: You might decide that you need more time to recover or to spend with your family each week, in which case you could choose to work part time. This could mean asking your current employer if they would be willing to support you part time or it might mean finding a new job which provides you with this opportunity. Switching to part time work is likely to mean a reduction in pay, so this should be considered before taking any action and perhaps it might be a good idea to look into financial support that could be available to you.
- Create more flexibility for yourself: To create even more flexibility in your work life, you might consider starting your own business or taking on freelance work. This way you can decide when, where and how much you work, and fit it around your MS symptoms or your family. There may be some initial hard work to do in the beginning but it could all be worth it in the end.
Being a parent can bring extra challenges to working and living with MS. Here are some top tips for keeping family life under control:
- Find support: One sure-fire way to cope: get reinforcements. This could be in the form of family and friends but could also be other parents. Local parenting groups can be a great way to meet people who can share parenting advice and could also be a good way of finding others who you can call upon when you need childcare support.
- Prepare activities: Working from home can be really helpful for striking that home and work life balance, but is sometimes be easier said than done when you’ve got a little one competing for your attention when you’re trying to concentrate. Be sure to prepare lots of activities for them ahead of time, so you can get on with your work with some peace. Ask others from the parenting group for activity ideas or look online for inspiration.
- Don’t compare: One of the most important things when it comes to finding balance when you have children is to not compare yourself to other parents; you shouldn’t be afraid to take shortcuts if you need to! Things like shopping online or giving children chores can be small changes that make a big difference to how much energy you have. It’s ok to let them watch TV or play video games sometimes so that you can take a rest – you don’t have to feel guilty. Also, remember making time for your children doesn’t have to mean day trips and organizing activities with friends – it can simply be playing a board game, reading them a story or watching a film together.
- Talk to your children: If your children are old enough, you might choose to talk to them about MS and what it means. It’s natural to want to protect your children from this kind of information sometimes, in case it upsets them, but talking to your children about how MS might affect you could help them understand your needs more, for example when you need time to recover and relax.
Taking care of you
In order to keep up with work and family lives, looking after you, and that includes your MS, is really important.
- Keep symptoms in check: Keeping an eye on your MS symptoms and noticing any changes can help when it comes to managing your condition. MS can progress over time in some people, so it’s important to take notice when things do change. Keeping a journal of symptoms might be a good idea because it means when you go to appointments with your doctor, you can provide lots of detail and this will help them figure out the best ways to continue managing the disease.
- Make time for yourself: Whatever is going on in your work or home lives, don’t forget to make time to do the things that help you feel good. Whether this is time to relax, meditation classes or doing exercise, make sure to fit it in to your life. This could be as simple as spending ten minutes in the morning stretching before work or having a bubble bath in the evening after the children have gone to bed.
It’s all about the priorities
Take time to figure out what in life is most important to you and where you can afford to make compromises. If you feel you want to spend most of your energy on family life, find a job that fits in with that or stop working if you can. If you want to progress in your career, figure out small changes you can make to your work and home lives to help with this. Whatever your priorities are, ensure you are still looking after yourself and doing what you can to manage your MS. Over time your priorities may change, or your symptoms may change or progress, and this may mean adapting your lifestyle. Be sure to check in with yourself regularly to make sure you’re happy with your balance of home, work, MS and all the other aspects of your life.
Remember: balance doesn’t have to mean performing a balancing act!