I have a confession to make. Being a career mom is tough. When I feel like I am succeeding at work, I have little left for my kids, my husband or myself. On the other hand, when I let things slide a little at work, the work stuff comes back to haunt me later.
To many outsiders, I seem to have it all. However, on most days, I ask myself how in the world can I balance all the demands from work and family (not to mention taking care of myself too).
There is no easy way to juggle work and family. There isn’t a right way to do it either. How can we ever achieve a good work life balance?
Be realistic and realize that something has to give
We need to realize that we are not perfect. We can’t be great at everything all the time. For the past 2 years, I have tried to be the perfect mom and be excellent at my job. I answer emails from work at all times, work long hours to meet deadlines, and try to clean, cook and feed my kids at the same time. I was completely burnt out. As much as I wanted to, I could not go on like this forever. I decided to take a back seat at work, and focus more on my family. I am much happier now, and am able to find time to take care of myself too. Time will not magically multiply just because you have more responsibilities, so I just learned to let it go, and remind myself to not feel guilty or frustrated about anything.
Accept yourself and your situation
You don’t have to be the perfect family! You don’t need to compare your career, your kids, or your family to another working parent’s. This is simply too dangerous. Other families might seem to have it all together on the outside, but they might be chaotic on the inside too. Every family is unique. I have come to accept myself and my not-so-perfect family, and this has given me the peace of mind for me to make more thoughtful decisions in life.
Learn to ask for help
It will be hard, but I have learned to ask for help whenever I need it. It is essential to allow yourself to stay sane. I am lucky enough to have my mother-in-law and sister close by, so whenever we need help with babysitting, or simply just need the afternoon off, I ask for them to be here to lend a helping hand.
Share your thoughts with people around you
This works with kids too. By communicating with my kids, my meal-planning is so much easier now. Instead of preparing food that they dislike, they tell me what they would like to eat, and there is less dinnertime battles. Or my kids help me figure out what activities to do on the weekends. By letting them participate in decisions, it makes them feel heard. Try bringing in your kids as collaborators too!
Similarly, this “we” concept works wonders at work. Opening up at work doesn’t mean vulnerability. Bosses are human too. Rather than concealing your problems, explain to your boss that you are going through a rough patch at the moment. Most of the time, people will respond with generosity and help out in any way they can.
It’s ok to have a messy house or be imperfect
I told myself that I don’t have to be the perfect housewife. Before we had kids, I used to keep my house in pristine condition. But since my kids were born, it is just a constant mess at home now. I have learned to accept the mess, and only organize what I can. The kids will just mess it up again the next day, so why stress over something that is beyond my control? I just clean enough now. By the way, I also buy frozen ingredients to incorporate into my cooking nowadays. I simply do not have time to make everything from scratch, and it is perfectly fine because my kids are still enjoying their meals everyday!
Make a plan and stay organized
I cannot stress this enough. My day is packed with activities, and by making a plan, I have time for everything that I need to do. Prioritizing is key too. We are not super humans, so we can’t do everything at the same time. Create a schedule to perform the important duties first, then leave the rest for another day.
Learn how to be flexible too!
While it’s important to have a plan and stick to a routine, we need to be flexible if the situation calls for it. The important thing is to know your own preferences and style. When we are flexible, we cope better too when things don’t go the way we planned originally.
Winding down before bed time and sleep well
I spend about 30 minutes before bedtime just relaxing because I am constantly on the computer or phone most of the day, and I need this to help me get a good night’s sleep. This is also my alone time away from my kids, work and my husband. As a full time career mom, I’m always busy, and if I don’t take this time for myself, I would go crazy! Also, I know for a fact that without a restful night, I will be tired and cranky the next day, which doesn’t help me to be efficient during the day.
I hope you’ve found these tips on how to balance work and family useful! When it comes to juggling career and family life, you just need to keep your focus and take the long view. If your career is taking the backseat because your family needs you, it is perfectly ok. It doesn’t mean you’re failing at work. It is just a temporary trade-off. When your kids are more self-sufficient, you can restore the balance at work later. Be patient. Keep trying. Eventually you will find the balance that you are happy with.
Check out my other related post: How to Cope with Parenting Stress