The past couple of weeks, I was paired with a 20-something co-worker to do a big pitch for work. She’s newly out of college and this is her first job since graduation – and she’s doing a fabulous job! I knew that I brought a lot of experience to the table and I looked forward to helping her. Like any young person new to a position, she was eager to do a great job. She put in the extra research and extra time to pull together a presentation for the pitch. So where is the problem, you ask? Work-life balance at different points in life.
While work-life balance is in the front of my thinking because I have children at home, she has no children and was very eager to put in the extra hours. She wanted to work late one night, which I did reluctantly, but instead of just giving in, I took the opportunity to share with her my rules for work-life balance. Afterwards, it dawned on me that no one had ever taken the time to have that discussion with me as I was struggling through my career. In fact, I didn’t even really understand what work-life balance truly is until about five years ago.
I have found that one of my best rules-of-thumb that I adopted was that I will have dinner with my children every night. I can work after dinner. I can work before dinner. But, I will set time aside every night to have dinner with them and talk about the events of the day. Of course, there will be a rare occasion where that won’t happen, but I find that the kids are fine the few times I have had to do it because it is an exception and not the rule.
I have also found that co-workers are willing to allow that to happen as long as I prepare them for it. If meeting invites come through for my dinner time, I communicate that is my children’s time and I am more than willing to do it earlier or later. If they want to work into the evening, I request a list of tasks that need to be accomplished with the deadline and agree to work on it at home after dinner. Most importantly, I make sure the message always comes with “I have do dinner with my kids first”. Not only does that help them see work-life balance in action, but by following through with it, I am also teaching my girls about work-life balance.
When I told my eager co-worker about the reasoning for what I do, I took the time to help her understand why. When you are young, you want to make a mark in the world. That is the reasoning many use to work the extra days and late hours. Unfortunately, that also contributes to the pattern that needs to be broken. So, what can you do to help pass the message on about work-life balance? How did you learn about work-life balance? What areas do you struggle with the most to make it happen? Be sure to pass on what you learn as you go so maybe the next generation will think it is normal instead of the exception!
11 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance: Pass it on!”
Work life balance is a challenge. When you work in an industry where everyone works long hours, and you have a commute, being able to take a dinner break is pretty difficult. In addition, in this economy, having restrictions on what kind of job you can take is quite a challenge. Then add to that, husbands who want to have a say in that work life balance.
I completely agree that young women, AND young men, need to be better educated about the work life challenges they will face when they become parents and how to handle them in a variety of fields and job types.
I completely understand where you are coming from. What I found was that, even with everyone working long hours, when you talk to people about your boundaries (as long as they are reasonable and work still gets done), they are pretty accepting! I was surprised to find how much easier it was than I thought it ever would be. Hopefully, with many of us sharing the message, it will slowly become part of the way people work as normal instead of the exception!
Hey Becky, great post.
I can totally understand how you feel and it actually takes me back to my pre-children days. You just think so differently and you don’t understand because you have never been a mom. Only moms understand about being a working mom and trying to get some sort of balance in life. But at the end of the day being a mom is the most important job of all.
I am so passionate about this topic Becky that I am writing a book on Successful Mumpreneurs and their warts and all stories on their journey to the top.
Love your stuff!
To health & happiness (and being a great mom)
Thanks, Dee! I think the hardest time is that transition from being single to being a mom. You still try to work like you did when you had no kids and you have to learn how to work differently. But, no one ever really talks about it. So, you have built up a reputation of working hard and so reliable that, when it is new, you fear talking about it with others. You don’t want to be looked at as a slacker or one that uses kids for an excuse all of the time. You don’t want to jeopardize moving up the ladder or losing respect because you put up boundaries. My hope is that we can carry the message and help other women coming into this role to know it is ok and possible to be a good mom and a great employee! It’s a balancing act, but very doable!
Good luck with your book! And thanks again!
Great lessons to be taught! Balancing is really what each person makes it and those boundaries are so important. I think it’s great you took the time to explain that and you set those boundaries, too. I do that as well… I was never taught about those boundaries but remember seeing parents, both men and women, at my first corporate job. Within the first year I was there, I saw heart/health leave of absence, 3 divorces and other stress related illnesses… and no boundaries. All had families, all worked about 12 hours a day! Big life lessons from that one. Great post Becky… and so important to understand early on..
Thanks Steph! So many things to pass on to our daughters to make them better than we were…but little at a time, we can help make changes happen!
I find it really difficult to achieve a work/life balance as a lawyer and mother of 5. Switching off from either role is hard for me with the end result that I feel I do neither as well as I otherwise could.
Have a look at my new blog with I believe will resonate with working mothers everywhere.
For me, I try to keep my focus on what portion of my life I am in at the moment and do the best I can for that portion. When I am at work, “mom hat” is removed and I put my all into my work. When I am at home “employee” is removed and I give my all to being a mom. Don’t underestimate yourself because if you are a lawyer and a mom of 5, then everything you accomplish is much more than sitting back and letting life pass you by!
“Thanks for keeping it honest and reminding us that prioritizing doesn’t necessarily mean chosing one over another.”
I think that sums it all up!
I’ve worked for 26 years and am still trying to find that balance-it’s so difficult. My children are older now, but you just have to sacrifice some things on both ends. While I love my work, like so many of you, I feel consumed by it. My mindset, though, has always been that I work for the betterment of my family. We would not have been able to live in the community where we live nor could we have sent our kids to the schools we did if I did not work. My kids were able to grow up in a safe neighborhood where they could run around and have a great childhood. In addition, I feel that I have been a great role model for my college age daughter, who is very independent and goal oriented. All of my children grew up to be able to do things for themselves because I have always worked. My husband too, has been a part of my family’s success. He had to take over tasks like grocery shopping and driving the kids to activities. He was and still is in charge of the morning duties because I leave the house earlier than he does. My older children cherish the memories of my husband making them breakfast in the morning, packing their school lunches, and seeing them off to school. He is such a great, attentive father who takes nothing for granted and is so grateful for all that I do. I have reached a point in my career that I can now work part time and hope to do so until my retirement in about four years. I am feeling like I have so much time now and am even doing volunteer work for the first time in my life!
I am 62 year old having exp in civil construction over 37 years as self employee and now having no work and no fund for living . please tell how i pass my life with my wife. we are alone.