Life-Work Balance in The NCS World

Life-Work Balance. It is a term we hear thrown around a lot, but do we know anyone who achieves this without a lot of angst? And if it creates angst, then what is the point, really? And for those of us working in the NCS world, that effort to achieve balance and not feel like we are shortchanging anyone, ourselves included, can be especially difficult given the crazy hours and crazy demands that go along with our kind of work. Yes, it is a bit crazy sometimes, because not only the hours are different, but the commitments and even the job duties are very different--this is not just “being a nanny but at night.” I am going to share a peek into the lives of 3 Newborn Care Specialists that I know (all real people, but names are changed) to share what each of them does to achieve a greater sense of balance while still serving their clients and creating a fulfilling life and career for themselves.

Our first NCS is Mary. Mary started out as a nanny and transitioned full-time to NCS work about years ago after straddling both worlds for a couple of years while she prepared for the full transition to NCS work. At first, she tried working 24/5 and 24/7 type jobs (24 hours a day, 5 or 7 days per week) but she quickly found that not only did she feel burnt out after only a few days, but as a single woman who enjoyed dating, these kinds of hours were simply too challenging to allow for life. Not enough life-work balance at all. She also found that the level of exhaustion that came with this was just too much for her. So she sat down, talked with her mentor and other experienced Newborn Care Specialists and with her friends, and made a plan, based on what she really enjoyed and what mattered to her. Mary knew that without a bit of balance in her life, she was going to quickly burn out and this plan that she had made and worked for was going to all fall apart. She started by adjusting to only working overnights, from 8, 9, or 10 pm until 6,7, or 8 in the morning. She initially tried working until 9 am but discovered for her that it was too late in the morning and it made going to sleep when she got home difficult.

In addition, she was pushing herself past that “optimal” window for morning sleep, and so on her drive home, Mary found she was dangerously tired--a recipe for disaster. So she modified that to end her shift an hour earlier and get the sleep she needed. In addition, she decided that she would take 4 weeks off between each booking, thus allowing for early delivery of a baby, a client who needed her an extra week or two, and still plenty of time to be off between jobs for personal care. The other thing that has been nice for Mary is the decision to only work Sunday-Thursday nights, taking weekends off, now allowing her plenty of time each week to meet new people and go on fun dates. Because she was intentional, paid attention to her needs and her responses, and focused not only on her job, but also what was important to her personally, Mary has found a great balance of working the hours she needs to in order to comfortably afford her life, but also to take time for those things that are important to her--her friends, her family, and the freedom to still date.

The takeaway: Be aware of what your needs are, look at what is working and not working to meet those needs, prioritize those things that meet your needs and move those that don’t to a back burner or completely “off the stove” and find that great balance for you, even if it looks different than other people’s balance. Don’t be afraid to make your needs a priority. When you are honest about them and do what it takes to include them in your life, you will be happier and healthier, and it will make your work life much more fulfilling as well.

Our second NCS is Amy. Amy is a single parent with three teenage kids. She lost her husband 2 years ago in a work accident, and while she was working as an NCS when the accident happened, she was the “fun” money in their house. Her husband’s income covered all their expenses and she paid for vacations, trips to the nail salon for her two daughters, and dinners out whenever the family wanted them. While there is life insurance, it isn’t enough to cover all their expenses, health insurance, and college tuition for three kids that are only a couple of years away for them. So now instead of taking clients when it suits her, Amy is working full-time. At first, like many Newborn Care Specialists, Amy decided to take on the 24/7 jobs because of the significant difference in pay--nearly double in most cases, of what she would make working just overnights. But she decided to lower her hourly rate to get more consistent work. However, Amy quickly discovered that this meant she was not seeing her kids except for every 8-12 weeks or an occasional time 1-2 times during the week when she was on her break and skipped sleeping to see them. This was not the kind of parent Amy wanted to be, especially when her kids were all still dealing with the grief of losing their dad--to then essentially lose their mother too was just too much. Her kids began acting out at school and their grades began to plummet.

In addition, Amy was also processing her own loss of her spouse, life expectations and dreams, and parenting her own kids. Something had to change. So, Amy and her kids made a radical change and a fresh start. First, they sold their large and expensive to maintain home and bought a smaller home that they could pay cash for with the proceeds of selling their bigger house. It was close to their old one, as Amy did not want to lose friends or change schools for her kids, but less monthly overhead costs and less work to keep up. With the lowered monthly costs, Amy could choose to cut back on working as many hours. She opted to work no more than 4 shifts of 24 hours per week and seek more overnight only work and daytime work. She found that NCS work was more often during the night, so she sought out additional training as a postpartum doula which, while still having a lot of overnights, also had more daytime hours. Over the course of a year, Amy made even bigger shifts, only taking occasional jobs that were 24/7 one to two times per year and the rest of the year working as many day shifts as possible by teaming up with a local doula agency for more placements than what she could find on her own, plus her own network and combining day and night hours to work around her kid's schedules. Things are better for them all around as the financial worry is lower, Amy can spend more time with her kids but still do the work that she loves. In addition, with the help of her mentor, Amy began to understand the value of working fewer hours at a higher (and more appropriate) rate instead of more hours at a lower rate, thus creating more time for her own family.

The takeaway: An unexpected life circumstance can sometimes throw a monkey wrench into our plans, but if we look at what we need and our priorities, we can sometimes adjust in order to achieve a better balance.

Our final NCS is Sarah. Sarah is a mom of 4 younger children, ranging in age from 15 months to 9 years old. Her husband works an executive-type job during the day, but they are a younger couple, only in their early 30’s and still building their lives. They just bought a house in the suburbs to get their kids into better schools and need their dual income. Sarah is both a postpartum doula and an NCS, and she is really good at her job. Because of that, there is a high demand for her services and she is regularly trying to find others to help fill jobs that she cannot. She feels bad that she can’t help these clients, so she is referring people on jobs out of the goodness of her heart, but it is taking more and more of her time and so during the day (she works overnights, 5 nights a week), when she had planned to spend time with her younger, still at home kids and also get some much-needed sleep when her kids napped, she is instead finding herself scrambling to help these families find care. She is getting tired and worn down and has been finding herself snapping at her kids and her spouse because of lack of sleep and frustration when she can’t find someone right away. And Sarah needed to make a change. So Sarah came to me for help. We looked at what the issue was: because she was good, Sarah was getting referred out a lot. But she could not take the jobs, so she was actively recruiting others to fill the jobs for the families. We talked about what she wanted and what she enjoyed. What she really wanted was to be able to stay at home with her kids, to spend quality time with them during the day, but also to really help find caregivers for these jobs. She found it weighed heavily on her when she could not help find a family help.

So we worked together and made a plan for Sarah to open a referral service, placing other NCS and doulas with families to fill the jobs that Sarah could not do. We worked on a business plan, on all the steps to opening a service like this, worked on a name, website, logo, applications, standards, policies and procedures, and more. Sarah wanted to continue to work with clients, but now, instead of working 5-7 nights per week and then working multiple hours per day, Sarah only takes those clients who want help 2-3 nights per week maximum and spends about 4 hours during the day taking care of her growing referral service. She is actually really enjoying this aspect of the NCS business and feeling great about helping more than just one family at a time. In addition, because her business has grown, she is making the same amount of money as before but working fewer hours and spending more quality time with her husband and her kids. Better life-work balance.

The takeaway: When you look at what you truly enjoy and find a way to turn that into a business, you don’t always have to be working 24/7 direct with the clients to be fulfilled, make a difference and have a great career.

Each of these Newborn Care Specialists had a life that was out of balance, working too many hours and not meeting their own needs. Once they sat down with someone outside the circumstances who could help walk them through the process, they were able to find a way, plan and then incorporate changes into their lives that gave them better balance, more satisfaction, and a great career!

Tonya Sakowicz
Founder & CEO
Additional Articles by Tonya:

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