Ironically, the moment in my life when I realized I couldn’t have it all, was the exact moment that I felt like I had it all.
You’ve no doubt heard the holy-grail-phrase “work life balance”.
The word balance, usually gives off a calming sort of feeling. By definition, it describes when different elements are equal or in the correct proportion.
Work-life balance sounds like the perfect state of mind. I think of a see-saw, where on one end rests all of my work-related responsibilities and on the other sits all of my home-related responsibilities.
That cute, little imaginary see-saw is, in fact, bull-crap. Once I had children that see-saw was violently tipping in different directions at all times, and it felt anything but balanced.
Although I am sure that there are superstar mothers out there who find ways to balance it all, I am willing to bet that they are in the minority. Most of us can’t run fortune 500 companies while maintaining an active voice in the school PTA.
This fictitious balance feels impossible to obtain.
Let’s Stop Talking About Balance
If we want to be successful working mothers, we have to stop thinking of life as a responsibility balancing act.
The see-saw analogy depicts a scenario where if you focus on one aspect (let’s say work), then the other aspect will suffer (home or family). While in extreme circumstances that is true, it makes me feel a little out of control.
I don’t like to feel out of control.
Instead of trying to achieve a Work-life balance on that annoying see-saw, think of it as a work-life spectum, which you have full control over.
Now, of course your children will ALWAYS be your top priority in life, but when it comes to other responsibilities, where do you want to focus your extra energy?
For example, when I went back to work after having my first son, I was far to the left on the below Work-Life Spectrum (all the way by the sneaker). I went to work to earn money to raise my son. That was it.
As my three children got older, I had more ambition for work and I crept up past the middle point on the spectrum (by the flats). I started to travel for work, and I was more engaged in my work-related projects.
To be a happy and composed mother, you must decide where on the spectrum you lie and adjust your life accordingly.
Why Does This Mindset Make a Difference?
When you decide where you want to lie on the Work-Life Spectrum, then you have power over your priorities.
Obviously, there will always be the risk of some conflict between your work responsibilities and your home responsibilities, but you have to think of these scenarios as trade-offs, not battles.
For example, you may have to leave a meeting early to see your son’s soccer game. OR, you may decide that your meeting is important for your career and you can attend his next soccer game.
Either scenario is not right or wrong, it is about you making the best choice for you and your family.
As a working mother, you can’t do it all. The thing is, that is okay. Your family, most likely, isn’t suffering while you are at work. If you come home feeling fulfilled and happy, that will benefit everyone.
Give yourself grace.
Tips for Easing the Internal Tension
It may take some time until you start to see the conflicts between work and home as gentle trade-offs instead of brutal battles.
This may sound silly, but it is okay to lower your standards a little. Do not feel like a failure if you are not getting promoted at work or baking cookies for the school bakesale.
The best way to redirect your focus is to simplify your life. Below I have 5 quick tips you can start today to take back more time in your life.
For more details and 5 more ideas, read 10 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Not-so-simple Life.
Throw out that lopsided see-saw analogy, and adopt my Work-Life Spectrum idea. Decide where you lie and always remember:
You might not have it all, but that is okay!
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