I recently asked 107 women what they do for work-life balance. From several previous conversations I have had in the past, I knew that this was a burning issue for working women, but I had NO idea how burning it really was. Almost unanimously, the feedback I received from this question was “I have no idea what that even means”. I can totally relate to this response and remember wondering years ago how on earth I could be successful as a mother, wife, volunteer and a full-time career woman.
My breaking point came when I suddenly became a single mother (how I became a single mother is a totally different post all together) and my independent but ever slow-moving son was trying my patience on this particular morning (he did this almost every morning, but this particular one resonates with me as the worst ever). My attempts that specific morning to get two little humans organized and out the door for school so I could get to my job on time were not working. I was already late for work and the kids had already missed their bus. I had a meltdown like I have never had before… literally, melted to the ground in tears asking my little’s if they wanted Mommy to lose her job because of them. This was my lowest of lows in the work-life balance struggle that many women have and I needed to figure this out. Not only for my own sanity, but for my children who needed me more than anything.
I could go on forever telling you horror stories about my work-life balance struggle… like the day my after-school babysitter was sick and I rushed out of a work meeting, sped across the city to find my wee four year old son sitting on the front steps of our home waiting patiently for his mom to get home….or how about the day that I sent my daughter to Junior Kindergarten to only get a call from her teacher that it was an A day not a B day (did I mention that my daughter went to school on B days AND…this happened several times that year). Something had to give, that’s all there was to it! I began taking baby steps towards regaining control of my life and creating positive habits into my daily routine to prevent crashing again. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days where I feel extremely unbalanced (I do not wear the crown of the Work-Life Balance Queen, trust me), but those days are now fewer and farther between.
These some legit solutions are what worked for me to start balancing my life like a fearless fabulous leader:
- Define what balance means to you. A single mom may need a different schedule then a mom with a partner at home. Moms with younger children will have different priorities then moms of teens. Everyone defines balance so differently, so truly think about what it means to you. For me, getting home by 5:30pm was a big start to balancing. My whole night flowed smoother if I got home by then. Another mom I worked with was all about mornings and asked to start her day later so she could get her kids on the bus. There are several of these little “checkpoints” in your routine you need to define to feel balanced. What are some of yours?
- Learn to say NO. Say NO to outside commitments that don’t meet your needs. Say NO to your children when they want to add yet another extra-curricular activity to your already busy schedule. Say NO to that social event that is overwhelming you at the thought of going on a busy week. It’s so important to create the space that you need to spend time with the people you love and to also take time for YOU. If you don’t feel like shouting “Hell yeah!” when asked, then your answer is no. (Credit to Derek Sivers for that little gem!)
- Love your job. I know that this is easier said than done, but I believe with all my heart that if you don’t enjoy your job, you will never have balance. Your job is a big part of your life and if you love it then balancing your life is so much easier and often non-existent. Feeling burned out and exhausted at the end of the day doesn’t balance with an evening of family responsibilities. If you don’t love your job, start taking steps to get another one… Seriously!
- Unplug when you’re away from work. I realize that not every employer supports this notion, and if yours doesn’t then I suggest you revisit where you work (for real). Whether you’re spending time with your family, friends or just taking care of YOU (which is equally as important), you need to peace out of work sister.
- Talk to your family. If you know that you have a busy week coming up, tell your family and prepare everyone for that week. Try to buffer the week with some extra time with your loved ones the week before and after, and communicate this with your family. Have a calendar in the most common area of your home (mine is in the kitchen) showing when you have late meetings, events, etc… Communication and preparation goes a long way my friends!
Lastly, let go of the guilt and that little voice in your head that says that balance doesn’t exist. Girlfriend, it does exist!! Your life is exactly the way YOU create it, and if you don’t take the balance bull by the horns, nothing will change. YOU have the power my friend….USE it!