Search icon


15th Mar 2016

Is There Such A Thing As Work/Life Balance? Alison Canavan Investigates…

Alison Canavan

Is there really such a thing as work/life balance? Can we have it all as mums? Do we have a right to be happy? Should mums stay at home? Is it where they belong? Do our kids suffer? Can you die from guilt?

Motherhood brings so many questions but in truth there is just one answer:


It’s not about what’s right for your sister or your best friend. It’s definitely not about doing what you think society wants you to do. Follow others blindly and you’ll end up miserable.

Let me make one thing very clear before I continue:

ALL MUMS ARE WORKING MUMS. Staying at home is actually the most difficult job in the world. It’s constant and you don’t even get a lunch break most days.

That is why I think the best thing a mum can do is reserve judgment and offer support. If you want to stay at home then do that but if you want to go to work you should be able to do that without feeling guilty. A good way to figure this out for yourself is to write a list of pro and cons. Afterwards, write a list of things you feel you can’t change but would like to.

For example, I knew I couldn’t model forever. I had been back to college a ridiculous amount of times over the years in an effort to figure out what I was going to do next. I completed all my courses but knew after each one that it was not what I wanted to do. This is not necessarily a bad thing (even though I thought it was the end of the world at the time).

When I became a mum, I pushed through fears and tried new things. I decided to go back to college because once I had written my list, the investment seemed worth it down the road, even though there would be sacrifices in the meantime. My main focus has always been my son James and after that I would fit in work, college and writing, often staying up late at night and getting up very early in the morning. People often ask me how I do it, but I know it’s not forever. I am laying down the groundwork for our future. Following your dreams and taking risks is definitely not the most comfortable or the easiest way to do things but in the end, it’s worth it.

The reason I am sharing my story is because when you become a mum something shifts. Your priorities and interests can change and, contrary to popular belief, this part of your life is the beginning of a very exciting new chapter.

As a new mum you might want to:

  • Give up work and stay at home
  • Quit your job and start a new career
  • Go back to your old job
  • Take extended maternity leave
  • Start your own business from home
  • Go back to college and follow your dreams or up-skill

What’s important to know is that it’s possible to choose any of these and make it work for you. That’s not saying it will be easy. As a working mum, some months I barely break even but I never focus on the negative and I love my job. Plus, I am personally much happier when I’m working.

I also have lots of friends who are stay-at-home mums and love it. A few said they might consider returning to work in a few years. Others wouldn’t. Some would like to change careers or be in a more flexible role. The great thing about it is that all these decisions are okay as long as you are happy and content.

The important thing to remember is that your life does not end when you have children, in fact, a whole new world of opportunity awaits. Don’t get me wrong, you have extra responsibility and less time, but if you are doing something you love you can be happy doing both. I believe that you can have everything, just not all at the same time. You will have to sacrifice different things at different stages, but don’t ever give up on your dreams.

Below is one of my favourite short stories:

A Happy Mum = Happy Children. THE END.

NEXT: Tomorrow I’ll share my top tips for returning to work after maternity leave

Alison Canavan is a health and wellness expert, parenting columnist and motivational speaker who has devoted her career to nutrition, health and wellness, with a strong focus on mental health. Her new book Minding Mum is about making the choices that suit you and that make you happy. With chapters on nutrition, exercise, post-natal depression, mindfulness, beauty tips for busy mums and much more. Buy a copy here


guest blogger