by Kelly Watson
Most women struggle with their ability to achieve balance… especially moms who are consistently juggling responsibilities to meet the needs of many constituents — husbands, children, ailing parents, kid’s schools, church and volunteer commitments and even employers. Work-life balance all starts with feeling confident about the choice you make regarding career and raising your children.
Parents can choose among three different paths:
- Choosing to continue a powerful career without interruption;
- Choosing to step off from a good career to be a full-time mom; or
- Choosing to find some hybrid solution to address being caught between wanting meaningful work and desiring to experience their children’s days firsthand.
While the choices of continuing the career or stepping off are usually consciously made, the nebulous hybrid solution is often a product of actually failing to choose. The key to becoming balanced is to first make your choice intentionally. Women who are torn between two worlds and feeling they have little or no control over their lives — both at work and at home — are most often operating without a key ingredient… a life plan.
Work-Life Balance Tip #1: Your Life Plan.
Set realistic goals for yourself. If you have chosen the path to step off of a career to be a full-time mom, decide what financial impact that decision will have and what timeframe you anticipate living out that decision. If you have chosen to continue a high-powered career, determine how you will be delegating your household responsibilities and how you will manage to fit time in to take care of you. If you have made the third choice in pursuing a hybrid career solution, decide what your expectations are in terms of meaningful work and what you are not willing to give up as it relates to your family.
Writing down your goals will help you prioritize them and eliminate things that, in perspective, are not as important to you. Make sure you put time in the plan for you as well — working out, eating, and the occasional pedicure should not be overlooked. If you need help, consider hiring a coach who can help you understand your priorities and how to articulate them.
Work-Life Balance Tip #2: Your Work Plan.
If you make the decision to continue working in some capacity, create a written plan for their employer and present it in a professional manner. Whether requesting part-time work, a flexible schedule, executive job-sharing, or more limited travel, tell your employer what you want. Document the return-on-investment and expected impact your plan will have on the business. Make it a win-win — you can’t expect your employer to bend if the organization gets nothing in return. It’s okay to fight for what you want, but be ready to negotiate.
Work-Life Balance Tip #3: Your Backup Plan.
It’s important to anticipate disruptions and have a back-up plan. It always happens, just when you get into a positive work routine, your phone rings with news of a sick child, a caregiver quitting, or the school closing for an outbreak of lice. To minimize the extra pressure, guilt, and the logistical headaches of emergency situations, prepare in advance. Make sure your technology is set up to work anywhere. Plan a backup childcare solution. There are many backup care providers out there, and some companies even pay for this benefit for their employees. Also, keep a backpack of necessities with you at all times so you can arrive prepared no matter what comes your way.
Work-Life Balance Tip #4: Build a Support Team.
The fourth step is to hire a support team, which could include domestic help, a personal assistant, or a dog-walker; just make sure your valuable time is spent furthering your goals as you have defined them. Your spouse should be recruited to the plan as well. It is important to clearly define expectations and consciously agree upon the division of labor. While nobody will do things as well as you could, you need to let the people you hired help you. In addition to hired help, support organizations for women making the choice to go back to work part-time include: Flexperience, My Parttime Pro, and Career Partners.
Work-Life Balance Tip #5: Saying “No.”
Finally, to achieve work-life balance, you need to get really good at saying “no.” Measure yourself against your goals, not other people. Balance is really about drawing personal boundaries and sticking to them. People will always try to get more out of you through guilt if you let them. The reality is you are probably already doing more in one hour than most people do all day. So, just politely say “no” and move on.
We all know women who are burnt-out, over-stressed, and ultimately missing out on the benefits of what a balanced life can afford them. However, consciously choosing your path and building a solid plan to support your choice, can increase the odds you will be balanced and fulfilled as a wife, mother and/or career woman.
Read more tips for achieving work-life balance in our article, 10 Tips for Getting Your Work/Life in Balance.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Kelly Watson is the founder of Career Partners, a company that helps professional women regain work-life balance through executive job sharing. The company uses matching technology to create powerful work teams and place them into joint-leadership positions. Career Partners then provides the ongoing coaching and support to make the pairings successful for the long-term.