The quest for work/life balance seems impossible to achieve at times. The pressure is especially strong on women, particularly those who are mothers, because they are so often expected to handle a disproportionate load when it comes to family and children. In addition, all too often it seems as if colleagues in the workplace scrutinize female co-workers judgmentally, expecting them to fail. Here are some ways to handle the work/life balance conundrum.
Focus on What Matters Most
Choose your priorities. Understand clearly what meetings or deadlines you absolutely cannot miss at work, and honor those commitments. At the same time, decide exactly what is non-negotiable when it comes to your kids. Will you promise to attend every soccer game, or just the finals? Must you be at every dance recital, or can you arrange to videotape? Draw the lines, even as you acknowledge that the work/life balance lines always shift as your children grow and your job responsibilities change. Once you've set your priorities, don't apologize for them at work. Do your job very well, and let your colleagues and managers know what your family priorities are. On the flip side, be prepared to say no to petty requests from schools, sports teams and clubs.
Use Technology Well to Help Achieve Balance
Advances in technology make striking a work/life balance more achievable than it has been in the past. Skype with your kids after school, and arrange for performances and games to be videotaped so you can watch them with your kids later. See whether you can telecommute one day a week. Using technology well also means turning it off now and then. If you are always available to the office, you are never fully available to your kids. Be prepared to go off the grid for the sake of your family at designated times.
Ask for Help
If you're married, talk to your spouse about finding a work/life balance between the two of you at home. Come to an equitable arrangement where housework is concerned, or simply hire people to help with the mundane chores that take you away from each other and from your kids. Arrange for a reliable backup to pick up your kids from school when you can't be there, to take them to music lessons and sports practice, and even to handle emergency medical appointments during school hours. If you have a friend or relative you can count on for these errands, that's great, but be prepared to pay someone so you don't have to worry.
In the end, you must realize that work/life balance isn't always possible. Don't let guilt get in your way. It's inevitable that sometimes you must throw yourself 100 percent into your work, but you can even the scales by putting 100 percent of yourself into your family at other times. Protect your personal and family time, make excellence a priority at work, don't worry if the house doesn't look perfect, and relax.
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