In the pursuit of an optimal balance between career and family, many moms are discovering that they enjoy neither. Here’s how to regain your sense of identity and joy as you excel in both your career and motherhood.
Every working mother wants success in both parenting and career, but many professional women find themselves in an undesirable cycle of guilt, exhaustion and burnout. Successful businesswoman Teresa Taylor contends in her book The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work/Life Success that working moms everywhere are unfulfilled because we’re pursuing the wrong goals. We recently caught up with Taylor to find out how to ditch balance for a better alternative.
Dismantling the myth
According to Taylor, the popular definition of work/life balance simply doesn’t exist. “Somehow society has created an expectation that we need to be a ‘perfect’ mother, wife, daughter and friend,” said Taylor. “It’s just not possible, and searching for it leads to frustration, disappointment and anger.”
More often than not, women run into problems when they let society — rather than their own intuition and desires — dictate the definition of balance. “Each of us has a different definition of balance and it changes at different points in our careers,” said Taylor. “I took my sons to the office on Sunday mornings during a period of time when I needed to do that to get my work done. Many thought I was crazy but it worked for me during that two year period.” Essentially, Taylor found balance that worked for her when she ditched the popular definition of work/life balance.
Taylor was able to ditch the myth of a work/life balance by seriously considering what she wanted from life. All too often, professional mothers are caught in the pursuit of “having it all” without stopping to think about what they actually want to have. For instance, some women want to make amazing crafts with their kids, some women want a corner office and some women want a little bit of both. It’s a woman’s responsibility to obtain a solid understanding of what she actually wants so she can pursue it, and it alone.
“It’s not possible to be a ‘perfect’ wife, mother, friend and employee,” said Taylor. She added, however, that women “can have it all, based on our own expectations rather than someone else’s.” The trick, then, is redefining success as reaching the balance we want for ourselves, rather than meeting the balance others demand.
Managing responsibilities without exhaustion
Ditching the myth of a work/life balance and finding a highly personal balance sounds great, but it’s not always easy to do. Taylor provided us with several suggestions for creating a balance that works for you.
- Evaluate yourself — Spend time evaluating the activities and interests that bring you energy. Once you determine what brings you energy, make it a priority. This will look different for each woman. It may mean that you pull back from work to spend more time with family, or that you spend more hours on the job.
- Give yourself time — Unfortunately, women are often guilty of neglecting free time, but free time is what makes life worthwhile. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, give yourself the time you need to read, exercise, garden and cook.
- Honor yourself first — You can only make wise decisions for your job and family if you honor your own desires and goals first.
- Combine your calendars — Stop maintaining separate calendars for your work and home lives. Instead, combine them into one because your family and professional lives are one.