When I work with women – with smart, competent, conscientious women just like you, I find that one of the biggest challenges they face is balancing their work and life. For some, mother’s guilt that gets in the way of them feeling good about their successes at work. For others, time spent with family and friends comes with the frustration of not attending enough to their professional growth.
Most of us have been there. Especially at that middle stage of our career trajectory which often happens to coincide with mid-life. The kids are still at home, ageing parents need us more than before, and work demands more of us in terms of time and responsibility. This “double burden” of motherhood and management means that we end up feeling out of balance, drained and burnt out despite our best efforts and time management strategies.
I’ve found that what helps the most is shifting our understanding of what this much sought after work-life balance looks like. We’ve somehow come to believe that life is like a Roman weighing scale, where a certain amount of work on the one scale can be perfectly balanced by an equal amount of “life” on the other.
But the reality is that life is far more like riding a bike. And as Albert Einstein said: “In order to keep your balance, you have to keep moving”. We have to tweak as we go along, to be flexible in the face of unexpected demands on our time, and to let go of the tormenting ideal of perfection that’s embedded in the female psyche.
Because work life balance is not perfect by any means. Its dynamic and its experimental. We may have it right one week, only to see it totally fall apart the next. The trick to staying aboard is to be understanding of ourselves. The challenges we face as working women are not easy; instead of beating down on ourselves for our apparent failures, we would do well to be kind to ourselves, and to keep making intentional choices that are aligned with our values.
For such is the journey of a well-lived life.