In spite of the fact that work-life balance as portrayed in the media has become as elusive as the search for the Holy Grail, women continue to desperately seek it out. Consequently, we are left feeling exhausted and guilty for failure to obtain an unachievable goal! Let's pause for a moment and think about the word "balance." Balance implies a state of equilibrium. Since nothing in life is truly "balanced," the entire discussion of work-life balance is a false narrative.
It is much more helpful and realistic to re-define the narrative of work-life balance from the perspective of reconciling our work and family responsibilities. By definition, reconciliation implies the ability to make two competing or opposing things compatible. Doesn't this perfectly evoke the feelings and challenges women face while working and raising their families? How often do we feel torn between our fervent desire to be a good mom and a successful career woman? This struggle is poignantly illustrated when a child becomes sick and needs to stay home from day care or school. Do we go to work or do we stay home with our sick child? Whichever choice we make, we often feel guilty about it. Therefore, the ability to reconcile what feels to be opposing responsibilities and roles is tantamount to feeling good about what we do, how we do it and the overall choices we make.
A successful way to reconcile our work and family responsibilities is by creating a family plan that complements rather than competes against our business plan. All business experts stress the importance of creating a thorough strategic business plan before starting a business or a new business initiative. Working women now need to learn how to prepare a family plan as well because we do not want success in business to come at the expense of happiness in our marriage and family life.
For women, the old paradigm of keeping your business and personal life totally separate from each other doesn't work (and it never really worked all that well for men either). This is why women must consider their family plan and goals while simultaneously considering their professional plans and goals. They are intrinsically woven together, going hand in hand. Viewing our family and business in isolation from each other inevitably leads them on a disastrous collision course.
Think of your family plan as a map as well as a compass for your career. Creating a family plan will help ensure that you and your partner are traveling down the same path, in the same general direction. Thoroughly discussing your business dreams and planning with and for your family will help you make business and family choices that offer the most potential for satisfying your long-term individual, couple, and family goals, as well as your professional ones. A well thought out family plan makes certain our business and relationship goals are in synch -- supporting rather than being at odds with each other.
Speak to any woman trying to work and raise a family and they will most likely tell you there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Therefore, time is one of the most important variables you must consider when creating your family plan. Utilizing your time efficiently is essential to one's success in business and life. Efficient use of your time is accomplished by creating clear boundaries between your personal and professional life, a task made simultaneously easier and more difficult with modern technology. Doing this however, insures you will not try to be all things to all people all at the same time. The best way to do this is to be totally present and focused on your work when you are at work. Do not allow yourself to become distracted by personal emails and texts. Conversely, it is equally important to be completely engaged and emotionally present when you are with your family. Discipline yourself not to check your smart phone incessantly for work emails. Be present by living "in the moment." During conversations, truly listen to what your family is saying to you rather than quietly thinking about a work project or some other task you need to get done.
It is also extremely important to beware of the time vampires! These are the people who suck the time out of our lives with their nonsense. We all know who these people are at work and in our personal lives -- avoid them like the plague. Time is the most precious commodity we have as we juggle our work and family responsibilities; unlike money, the Federal Reserve cannot print more of it.
The fact that we, as women, can multi-task doesn't mean we should be doing so all the time. Reconciling your work and family responsibilities within the context of creating a family plan that is unique to your personal family and professional goals will insure you create a successful life at work and at home!