Lately I have come across a number of articles either endorsing or decrying the idea of “work-life balance.”  Maybe it’s an outcome of the COVID pandemic when life slowed down and more people caught a glimpse of hybrid work or how complete work from home could change their schedules, but it seems like everyone has a strong opinion. Some say work-life balance is of utmost importance, oftentimes drawing ire from others that say those seeking balance just don’t want to work hard. Others say true work-life balance is never possible and you need to commit to one or the other, especially if you’re a mother; you must choose, are you a working mom or a SAHM? These recent hot takes make me chuckle, because thankfully, a few years ago I found some great guidance on this. And it wasn’t from a psychiatrist or an HR consultant or a talking head on TV. It was written over 1500 years ago and it came from St. Benedict.

When establishing his order and looking to guide his fellow monks on how to best structure their day, St. Benedict set forth his Rule, or the “Rule of Life” for the Benedictines. And although it was written in the 6th century, St. Benedict had work-life balance at the top of his mind (you could say this guy was ahead of his time!). As Sr. JM McClure, OSB, put it in Crossings, a tri-annual publication of the Sisters of St Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana.  “Benedict envisioned a balanced life of prayer and work as the ideal. Monastics would spend time in prayer so as to discover why they’re working, and would spend time in work so that good order and harmony would prevail in the monastery. Benedictines should not be consumed by work, nor should they spend so much time in prayer that responsibilities are neglected.” Wow. Now that’s something I can get behind. Especially at this time of the year.

As the trees bud and the temperatures warm, I have begun to feel the pressure of summer. As my children gear up for carefree summer days of grass-stained bare feet and bubbles and hikes through the woods, I slowly tense up, trying to figure out how exactly I am to balance my usual workload of my job with all four of my little distractions (I mean blessings) at home with me, looking for engagement and entertainment and time with mom. Not to mention, how do I get a chance to clean up the house when there will not be regular times without them simply following behind me recreating the messes? In this stress, I started to think about St. Benedict and his Rule. I want to allow my children to have a less structured summer after a school year of structure, but I still have a job that has commitments and structure. How do I reconcile this? With the help of St. Benedict, of course.

I won’t bore you with the specifics of my Summer Rule of Life for my family, because the most important thing is to create a rule that fits your family.  But if you’re interested in structuring (but only slightly) your family’s days, and are looking to balance multiple commitments, here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Pray about it. Take it all to the Lord (whether this is in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in the 2 minutes of peace and quiet your kids give you in the middle of the day.
  2. List out your commitments. Do you need to work 8 hours a day? Do you meet a friend at the gym every Tuesday? Do your kids have a baseball game every Wednesday? Jot these down so you’re sure to incorporate them.
  3. Make a wish list. Do you want to start praying a family Rosary every Sunday? Do you want to add in another workout every week? Is meal-prepping finally going to happen this summer?
  4. Prioritize the wish list. Here I highly recommend turning directly to St. Benedict. St. Benedict knew how important prayer is, but also acknowledged that there is work to be done. Consider how much of each day you want to spend in prayer – 10 percent? 25 percent? From your wishlist, choose which type of prayer. Maybe you sacrifice 30 min of individual prayer time on Sunday to say a family Rosary. 
  5. Block schedule. Life is unpredictable, especially with children. I have found that not committing to a specific time for each individual item is helpful and gives kids a break from an over structured schedule of the school year.  By blocking out larger chunks of time for general categories, you can give your day guidance, without being overbearing. For example:

6-8 Personal Morning Routine (individual prayer, walk, read etc.)

8-11 Work (kids set up with crafts, learning activity, outside play etc)

11-12:30 Kiddo time with mom, lunch

12:30-1 Naps, chores, etc.

1-5 Work, (kids free play, reading time, screen time)

5-7 Family Time/Activities/Sports

7-9 Family Evening Routine (showers, Rosary, books & kiddo bedtime)

9-10:30 Personal evening routine (prayer time, Examen, TV time)

It can be hard to manage all the things and make sure you are a good employee, a good mom, a good housekeeper and a good and faithful servant to the Lord (notice I don’t say great. I don’t even expect that any more, I just try my best). But perhaps with these helpful tips, you can try to find some balance between all the plates you juggle and acknowledge the value of each role you play as parent, as employee, as child of God.