By Hallie Crawford
Career-oriented moms have a unique challenge. We want to fill those “supermom” shoes but also have a rewarding, fulfilling career. We work 40+ hours a week, come home and want to be a perfect mom and wife, all while staying on top of everything in the household and trying to find some time for ourselves (if we can even get that!) To top it off, I know firsthand, we often feel guilty for not spending enough time with our children or spouse. Talk about a balancing act!
Any mom who has a full-time career knows exactly what this feels like. Owning my own business and taking care of a young child is no easy task. And I often feel guilty being away from my child. When I am able to spend time with him, I feel guilty of not being able to stay on top of work. Sometimes it DOES feel like a double-edged sword.
When your life is out of balance, you’re not focusing your attention and time where you want to, and not living the life you want to live. It feels like your life is on autopilot, like someone else is driving the bus and you are not in control.
And, when you feel pressured to handle so many tasks and have so many demands on your time, you lose creative thinking and effectiveness – not to mention becoming physically exhausted.
Here are some things I’ve found that have helped me maintain a sense of work-life balance.
Make a list
Start by making a list of the different areas of your life where you’re not spending as much time and energy as you’d like.
For example, if you feel guilty for not attending your child’s soccer game or science fair, write those down. Come up with at least three areas that need work in terms of your time and attention.
Identify action steps
In each of these 3 areas, identify one action step you can take in the next week to improve upon that area.
Make the action step simple, realistic and give yourself a deadline. Taking one step in each of these areas will create greater balance in your life. Continue to do this every week until you develop a habit of attending to the areas of your life that are important to you.
Balance work and personal time
If work is one of those areas that is taking over your life, try some of these techniques to better manage your work time and attention.
- Turn off your phone and/or email when you need focused time to work on a project. Set your email to only check emails when you press send/receive, not every time an email comes through. Having the email buzz at you whenever you receive a new message is incredibly distracting.
- Turn off your voicemail or email chime on your phone. Make a commitment to only check your voicemail and email twice a day at certain times.
- Prioritize your tasks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Consciously choose where you focus your time and energy.
- Plan ahead. When you know a big project is coming up plan for how you need to spend your time and delegate other tasks as necessary. Don’t wait for crunch time to re-arrange your priorities.
- Set boundaries.
- Decide how late you are willing to stay at work each night – 6:00, 7:00 pm? And how frequently this will happen. When you come home or finish work, leave work at work. Spend some time with your family.
- Before you dive into a task, determine how much time you can and will spend on that task. Set a goal for yourself, you’ll be more likely to achieve it.
- Leave weekends/days off open for spending time with your family. Don’t check your work email. Be fully present as a mom.
- Set aside time for you!
If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others? Making sure that you are healthy and happy is more important than anything else. Your children learn from example. Would you rather they see someone who has fun in their lives or someone depressed, tired, and “out of it.” Maybe this means once a month you have a girl’s night, or you go to the spa for a massage. Making time for you is very important.
Remember: Life balance is different for everyone. There’s no one right way to create it and your definition of balance may be completely different from someone else’s. Figure out what works best for YOU and your family and work towards it. Don’t get caught up in expecting perfection; that’s too much pressure to put on yourself.
Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with husband Frank and son Vaughn. When she’s not helping clients in their career search, she’s out horseback riding or traveling.