As a working mother, you spend your time juggling two different worlds. “If I could just find some balance,” you think, “life would be easier.” But what is a work/life balance? And is it really possible to find an equilibrium between these two parts of your life in today’s world?
When you are at home, you might still be connected to work. Emails might appear on your phone. You might get calls or texts from your boss or colleagues. And when you are at work, you probably receive texts from your children: “Can I go to Sally’s house?” or “What do we have to eat at home?” Technology helps keep us connected but at the same time, it doesn’t let us become disconnected. Both worlds are always at our fingertips, no matter where we are.
All of this can occur on a “normal” day. Add to that the unexpected crises — a sick child, caregiving for a parent or relative, trouble at work, a dispute with your partner, a car accident — and your world becomes overwhelming. You try to manage it all: children, spouse, home, and work, and still have time left for yourself. If only you could find that work/home balance, then you could be happy and successful. You could have a stress-free life. Instead, your life may be filled with guilt because someone is always demanding your attention, you spend your life tired, get more colds that you should, and worry about the times you are missing with family and friends. You are stressed.
Create separation between home and work
When you can focus on what you are doing, right now, you become more productive and happier. Technology makes it difficult to always separate your home and work life, but it is possible.
Tanya set up two rules and her partner has agreed to follow them as well:
Her phone and tablet are put away when she gets home from work each evening.
There are no answering emails, phone calls or texts during certain hours on the weekend. Those are “family hours.”
Tanya decides when, where, and how she is willing to be accessible for work. When she is at work, she makes sure to use her time wisely, and her boss and colleagues know that she won’t answer any calls when it is “family time.”
Redefine your definition of success
Sometimes we try to have it all because we want to prove that we are as good as others. We feel we are letting ourselves or someone else down if our house isn’t clean, dinner isn’t on the table at 6:00 p.m., or we miss a little league game. We feel we must stay late at work to show our dedication and be available every time a family member needs something. If this sounds like you, it is time to redefine your definition of success. Maybe you don’t have to have as clean of a house as your neighbor. But maybe messy and happy is good. Maybe you don’t have to stay late at work every night. Maybe less dedication is still acceptable.
Create a picture of how you see success. Your new definition should fit who you are, not who others want you to be. Think about what matters to you — where are your priorities, and what do you need to do to make sure your priorities are fulfilled?
Elaine, a working mother with three children, said she asks herself several questions before agreeing to anything, from working overtime to volunteering at her child’s school:
Will this fit into my priorities?
Will this enhance my personal life or my career?
Will not doing this harm my job or my relationships with my partner or children?
After answering these questions, she can make a clear and deliberate decision and knows she won’t regret it later. It helps her keep balance in her life.
Let go of guilt
Despite the fact that women now make up the majority of the workforce, many of us still have in the back of our minds that we should be home — with the children. We worry that we will miss both the important and everyday moments in their lives. Nevertheless, children manage fine when their patients work. Whether you work because you want to or because you need the money, your children will be OK. Research shows that children do not suffer when both parents work and it can actually be a benefit. A Harvard Business School study found that children whose parents worked were better off financially and emotionally as adults.
You don’t have to sacrifice success at work because you have a family, and you don’t have to sacrifice your family because you work. It is possible to have both, but it takes work and commitment to find the balance that works for your family.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.