IS THERE SUCH A THING AS WORK AND LIFE BALANCE?
Having worked with women over the past 30 years, I’ve seen the tension that many professional
women face. They struggle with the question, “How do I balance a career and home life?” Wouldn’t it be fabulous if there were a magical “1-2-3 formula” that would enable us to find the perfect balance to handle all of our responsibilities?
As a professional working mother of three children myself, it quickly became apparent to me that this issue was going to demand an intentional plan and careful forethought. First, the plan started with a newfound belief that I really could choose the trajectory of my schedule and my attitude toward work, home and family life. We are not as powerless as we sometimes feel.
On this journey to discover balance, I read extensively, hoping to gain wisdom on how to juggle the various roles and demands of a career and family. Through much trial and error, I identified three strategic shifts that were instrumental in my own journey. I hope these encourage and empower you as well as you seek to live into healthy ways of being a professional career woman.
1 / Shift Your Language
This small but strategic change in my language was freeing because maybe balance is not the right word for what we need to attain. The definition of balance implies that you are giving equal amounts of time to both work and home at all times. I found that this expectation was simply not realistic. Life happens, and sometimes things evolve that are simply out of your control. Learning to live life from a place of seasons versus balance lifted guilt and pressure off of me and gave me the flexibility that I needed.
“Seasons” implies a decision on the front end of every day that you will do your best to give what you have to manage the most pressing demands before you. For example, certain times of your week, month or year may be more demanding on your schedule for your work. The question then is, “What can you do differently to navigate home and work in a positive way from this perspective?” Here are a few suggestions:
- Be proactive with your family and communicate with them about the season that you are in regarding your work. Ask for their patience and understanding as you navigate your responsibilities.
- Commit to double up your energies and spend time with them following this season.
- Model the same principles when your children face demanding seasons. For example, when exams hit, offer to be a little more flexible until that season passes.
- If possible, seek employment where you will have some flexibility to handle periodic family responsibilities. Be proactive with your boss about your needs.
I found that my family rose to the occasion with understanding and support. I’ve also discovered that your employer is much more willing to work with you when certain situations arise
if you have over-communicated your needs and if you are willing to go the extra mile to get the work done.
2/ Lead From a Place of Rest Versus Exhaustion
Most women I know are probably laughing at this statement, but the truth is that we can lead from a place of rest. It is interesting that most calendars begin with Sunday, which is supposed to be a day of Sabbath or rest. Our week is to begin with rest and not end that way. What a revolutionary idea!
Learning to take control of your calendar is imperative, because no one is going to do that for you. It’s easy to make the mistake of prioritizing everybody’s schedule on the calendar except your own. No wonder we struggle with feeling tired, frustrated and overwhelmed. This pattern is destructive. Give yourself permission to take time for yourself without feeling guilty so that you can maximize the time you do have with your family.
3/ Choose to Empower More and Over-function Less
Our families can do a whole lot more than we give them credit for. Most parents want their children to grow up to be self-sufficient and independent, yet we do more than we should for them. Over-functioning is a cycle that can be broken.
Letting go of perfectionist tendencies, unrealistic expectations and even guilt can empower your children. They can begin at an early age to help with household chores and responsibilities. This can save you hours on a weekly basis so that you can spend more time investing in yourself and your family. It takes a little extra energy on the front end, but it is so rewarding to watch your children learn to contribute to the family. You can also choose to ask your spouse to champion certain household or family responsibilities so that you are more emotionally available to the family.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Choose to prioritize your rest when calendar planning. Be creative about how to maximize your moments, hours or days. You must relentlessly pursue rest or the demands of life will soak you dry. Here are a few ideas:
- Daily, choose to close your door for 15 minutes at the office. It’s amazing what a few moments of quiet and reflection can do for your peace of mind.
- Weekly, decide to schedule a lunch date for yourself to be quiet, take a walk or anything else that helps you to relax and refuel.
- Monthly, schedule a babysitter for a few hours just for yourself.
- Schedule family vacations, family time together (with and without friends) and/or date nights with your friend/spouse. Make these commitments sacred.
- Be determined to make the hard choices about which activities your children will be involved in. How much time will it require for the rest of the family? You may be the only one who can protect your family from a crazy schedule. Don’t be afraid to say no and model for your family how to have a pace of life that is healthy.
- Guard against overbooking your weekends with fun. Sometimes you just need to stay home and regroup.
- Choose to unplug from any sort of media weekly. Set boundaries around the usage of phones and computers so that everyone can be fully present with each other.
MEET THE EXPERT:
Janeese Spencer is the Executive Director and Founder of Venture Life Coaching, LLC. She is a certified John Maxwell Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Leadership Consultant and pastor with more than 30 years of experience teaching, leading and equipping individuals and organizations to reach their full potential professionally and personally.