By Mariela Dabbah
The search for work-life balance is senseless. You don’t stop being a mom because you are at the office and you don’t stop caring about your work when you are home.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t establish some boundaries and implement strategies that allow you to be more effective and to better enjoy your time at work and at home. But what would bring much needed guilt relief to all working mothers is to give up trying to achieve the perfect balance. It doesn’t exist as a mathematical equation. Just accepting this fact will bring your stress level down a few notches.
Then, become aware of the fact that you live simultaneously several lives despite the illusion that you live them sequentially.
Translation: You are not a mom from 6:00-8:00 AM, a professional in the workplace from 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, a friend from 5:00-6:30 PM, a wife and mom from 7:00 to 10:00 PM and a lover after 10:00 PM (if you’re lucky).
You are all those things concurrently every day of the week.
In addition, you are a reader, an art collector, a marathon runner, an investor, a great cook, a fashionista, a gardener and who knows how many other great things.
So here are two keys for getting rid of the persistent guilt most moms feel when leaving the kids to go to work and also when leaving their work to return to their families:
#1: Embrace the moment
Rather than seeking an elusive balance, try to aim for being present. Being in the moment is much more valuable than dividing your presence in equal parts between two realms that are never clean cut. If you spend eight or nine hours away from home every day, make them count and trust that your kids will be fine without you. It is really not about how many hours you spend with them but the quality of those hours. So when you are with them, make sure you’re there. Create blocks of time for you to do things together, for your kids to feel your presence at home even when you are at the office.
#2: Set and adjust your priorities
Figure out what’s important to you at different times of the year, and at different times of your life so you can set your priorities and allow enough time for each one of them. Nobody knows better than you what percentage of your time you need to spend at work, at home, at the gym or somewhere else. These priorities change constantly so it’s critical to keep an eye on any changes of your own needs so you may adjust the time allocation rather than attempting to keep a balance that is most likely someone else’s idea of how you should spend your time.
The moment you start thinking in these terms, your sense of guilt lifts. The same way you don’t stop being an investor while you’re training for your marathon, you don’t leave your motherhood at the door when you go to work. You bring it with you. It infuses your business decisions with a savvy point of view and it gives you some amazing powers (compassion, consensus building, empathy, measured risk-taking, and a host of others.)
Life has never been a one size fits all.
Why we have tried for such a long time to strike a 50-50 work-life balance is beyond me. Isn’t it time we throw this concept out the window and replace it for something that works better for us?
Born in Argentina, Mariela Dabbah is an award-winning best-selling author, thought-leader, corporate consultant, and media contributor on issues of education, career development and empowerment with a focus on Latinos. She’s a sought-after international speaker and corporate trainer who has inspired diverse audiences to take the steps needed to fulfill their dreams. Dabbah is a frequent guest on CNN, Univision, Telemundo, Fox News, and all the major English and Spanish networks.
In 2009 she created Latinos in College, a nonprofit organization to help Latino students in the U.S. find everything they need to succeed in college. In 2012, after the publication of the Spanish-language edition of her new book, Find Your Inner Red Shoes: Step into Your Own Style of Success, she launched the Red Shoe Movement, with the goal of increasing female representation at the highest levels of decision making in all types of organizations.