Work/life balance; judging by how much that phrase is tossed around, it’s the equivalent of the Grail Cup for us women in the business world.
We talk about it, mostly on the fly between meetings; we worry over it, we strive for it, we beat ourselves up for not getting it right. So many conflicting demands for our attention; so many fires to put out; so many times we’re not able to summon up our best when called on, because our hearts or minds or attention are somewhere else. Is it even possible to get it right?
Millenials think so - in fact, they’re demanding it. The 40-hour work week is making a return in many places, driven mostly by their demands for balance. Flex time, family leave, longer and more vacations; these are all back on the table after many years where most of us felt that if we didn’t work harder than the man in the next office, we couldn’t compete. That mindset remains for many of us, and with it, the guilt and sense that somewhere, somehow, we’re inevitably letting someone down, whether it’s our co-workers or our kids, or our partners. And so the self-doubt takes hold and, with it (let’s be honest), the self-loathing.
Looking for time to sacrifice to getting it all just a little closer to right, we invariably give up OUR time – the time we use to relax, to look inward, to enrich our minds or souls, because after all, who comes last in the great mix of career and family? We do.
It’s killing us. And we’ve got to stop.
Women are surpassing men, all right – in the heart attack and stroke department. Heart disease is falling among men, but rising among women. Could the endless pressure to be everything to everyone be a piece of that? And is balance even possible?
As a woman, and a single mom of four great kids (and one great dog), and a serial entrepreneur with two businesses (one of which is in start-up mode), I believe that it is. Yes, I’m busy – but I’m also at peace with my choices and the balance of my life.
It wasn’t always that way, I sacrificed relationships and even lost friends, but I have finally come close to equilibrium of my life. And here’s how I’ve done it
1. Self-care must be number #1. If you’re not taking care of yourself 100%, both physically and spiritually, you can’t take care of others. Take mini breaks, take vacations. Get sleep – lots of it. Indulge in your favorite activity, whether that’s watching a great documentary weekly or reading novels in the bath. Eat well – and yes, I have the following written on my bathroom wall: “You are what you eat”, so it’s first thing I see in the morning. A little tip; start your day off with boiling water, fresh ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper to kick start your metabolism (OK, that’s enough health advice). I never used to be vegan or a health nut, but since I’ve focused on my self-care I have seen quantum results in all areas of my life. Just DO it (sorry, Nike).
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. God bless Uber; they make my life possible. And the woman who cleans my house, does the shopping, and cooks the meals does a better job than I could or would. You probably wouldn’t consider doing your own books, or cleaning your office bathrooms; why in the world wouldn’t you be as smart about your home life? No, your mother probably didn’t have help; but you’re not her, and your kids will value the time spent with you more than they would watching you sweep and do dishes.
3. Be where you are, when you’re there. It’s so easy (particularly if you’re the micromanaging type) to try to multi-task, but every study about multi-tasking shows that we’re just fooling ourselves if we think we’re doing that well. Meditation helps me live in the moment, whether that’s talking with my son about his day at school, or meeting with my team. If you’re not where you are when you’re there, you’re nowhere.
4. Forgive yourself – and move on. Perfection may be attainable, but probably not in this life! And studies show what many of us have suspected – that kids of working women grow up with better attitudes toward work, AND towards women. Remember that, when the temptation to berate yourself for some imagined or even real screw-up on your part threatens to derail your self-esteem.
5. Carve out “me” time, and stick to it. Nobody can deal with a boss or colleague who’s depressed, exhausted, stressed, and at the end of her rope. No kid should have to, either. I make time every day for exercise, meditation, and quiet. Yes, it may happen early in the morning, or late at night – but it happens, and I give it up for nobody. It keeps me sane. Respect yourself enough to know what you need to maintain your internal balance, and that will show in how you handle the external world.
Sisters, we’ve got this. But we have to start by being kinder to ourselves. That kindness and the peace that flows from it will make everyone around us happier – and bring the balance we’re looking for from the only source from which it can come; within ourselves.