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I'm not Superwoman, I'm just a career mom who juggles

Joanna Brinjak Furlong has been writing professionally since 2002. Originally from Arizona, Joanna now resides in Los Angeles. She works in marketing for a travel company by day, and writes and consults on the side. Joanna enjoys intervi...

One working mom's work-life balance

The ultimate balancing act between family and career seems like a dream you can't quite grasp. But one mother shares her journey and gives us the proof that our dreams can become our realities.
Kristen and her family

Background

When Kristen became pregnant right after she got married and graduated from college, needless to say, it was unexpected. She grew up knowing that education and being self-sufficient were extremely important. Knowing that she wanted to keep her career while being flexible with her schedule, Kristen reached out to an employer she had interned with and approached them for a job, explaining that she was aiming for 15 or so hours a week as a remote employee. Luckily, they agreed.

Kristen’s career and motherhood journey began in 2004. Today she is a mom to three with a job in communications. She resides in a suburb of Las Vegas.

A juggling act

This ability to forge your own career path with flexible hours may seem like a dream to many of today’s working moms. Forbes reports nearly 71 percent of women who work today have children under the age of 18. As many can attest or simply imagine, the balancing act of a job combined with managing a family can potentially become a circus act.

"I was working 15 hours a week, and then it crept to 20," Kristen said. "Then it became 25, then 35. Before I knew it, I was working a full-time job and I had become an executive." At the same time Kristen’s hours and responsibilities were increasing, her family and home life also became busier. She and her husband Ryan, a pastor, had a second child and then adopted a third. Kristen found herself squeezing in work whenever she could — in early-morning hours, during the children’s nap time, late at night and on the weekends.

Kristen's kids

Something’s got to give

It was in 2009 that Kristen came to a career-life realization. She was working in her home office when she suddenly broke down. “I was living a lie. I was trying to be all things to all people, and it is not possible. I felt like I was failing.” Kristen realized that she was living a life of chaos — of crazy schedules, the shuffling of kids, attempting to find dedicated time with her husband, trying to be a good employee — and it just wasn’t working anymore. “For a long time, I pretended that it was, but I was lying to myself.”

Kristen spoke with her employer. “I want to give half my job back, I want just 15 hours a week again,” she said. And this time, she meant it. Kristen now truly does work just 15 to 20 hours a week. She no longer works on the weekends. She works a few hours Monday through Thursday, and then Friday is her day to keep her head down and power through.

Of course, this means she has sacrificed executive-level compensation, including vacation and bonuses. “And now I buy my skirts at Ross and we rarely go out to dinner,” she points out. “I had to weigh what all these things meant to me.”

How she makes it work

Kristen believes she is succeeding because she’s made hard decisions along the way based on priorities. Advice to other working moms? "Guard your time. Set boundaries." She no longer becomes checks work email over the weekends. "It takes away from my time with family. I become distracted versus being in the present.

Another key point of advice from Kristen: Rise early. "It’s painful at first, especially if you’re rising at 5 a.m. But by rising early, I can prepare for my day and get my act together — even if it means just 10 minutes to have coffee by myself."

And ask for help when you need it. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help from your husband, friends and family. As Kristen is first to admit, "I’m not a super-woman."

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