Every day young women join the workforce and inevitably one day find themselves pondering the choice of a “career” or a “life.” I chose both! There are always exceptions, but I believe most of us have the opportunity to do the same. I am no expert, but rather a practitioner like you. As a technology executive, mother of two, wife, daughter and friend, I’ve been challenged to “balance” career, family, community and higher education while staying sane through it all!
First, let me say that I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “perfect balance.” Maybe now you can breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve probably been balancing life all along and didn’t even know it! There is no specific recipe, but allow me to share some of my observations and lessons learned throughout my journey.
There are no “super humans.” For many years I tried to “do it all” until it became too difficult and apparent that something had to change. At that point, I stopped seeking to become “super human” and realized that I don’t need to do everything myself or solve every problem alone.
When the going gets tough, get a support system in place. My husband is a big part of my support system, as well as my family. My support system was working well for many years until I accepted a CEO position in another country and my husband couldn’t join me. Suddenly, I found myself carrying the weight of a company, in addition to being a single parent of two teens, 1,600 miles away from home. I had to adapt. I quickly established a local personal support structure of people I trusted, and where I could, I took advantage of services to help with things I didn’t have to worry about before. I also established a remote professional support network of colleagues who served as trusted advisors in my new role. Balance wise, this was the most difficult time of my life. Many positives came out of this experience, but most of all, I became appreciative of the challenges facing many professional single moms.
Set priorities. Being a mom, wife and daughter comes first—these are roles I choose to own. The rest—cooking, cleaning, laundry—can wait. Holding the type of job I love, I can’t be expected to make a home-cooked meal from scratch every night!
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just do your best! I may never win “Best Yard of the Month,” but I’m okay with that! Over the years, I’ve learned to stop killing myself preparing for relatives, friends’ visits or even Thanksgiving dinner. I still host the dinner, but since I’ve embraced not being perfect, I now invite more people, and it’s become the most enjoyable time of the year. Perfection can be a hindrance to reaching joy, achieving balance and building authentic relationships.
Set boundaries for your relationships. Spend most of your time living the life you want and not the life others expect you to live. This isn’t easy, and I’ve risked losing friendships along the way, but I realized that people who aren’t willing to allow me room to live as I choose probably shouldn’t be a big part of my life.
Focus on the task at hand. Whether it’s a tedious meeting, an exciting brainstorming session, a ladies’ night out or heart-to-heart with my daughter, I put my email, text and phone aside, and give my full attention.
Live in the moment. I am aspiring to live in the moment, not dwell on what I could be doing instead. I’ve never regretted missing a work meeting to be by the side of my ailing father, my dying friend or to attend my kids’ sports events. I try to live my life intentionally and choose where to spend my time…no regrets.
Quality first then quantity. I would love to spend 10 days with my family on the beach, but if I only have three days, I focus on the quality of time and try to be deliberate about every moment.
Lastly, but most importantly:
Take care of yourself. While you are walking this tight rope called life, carrying the weight of career and family on your shoulders, take a break. I try to exercise, eat better, sleep well and laugh more, for myself and for all people who depend on me.
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