Why Work-Life Balance Is Often Elusive for Women
Is work-life balance even possible, and if it is, how do you achieve it?
Likely your answer is dependent on your personal situation. It's fair to say that working women nationwide typically struggle to find balance, and most find it elusive (or nearly impossible).
It may be that balance is within reach, but it depends on your definition of balance and on your approach to life, at work and at home.
Why is Work-Life Balance Important?
We all have an inner drive to feel balanced; it's quite natural. We think that if we have balance, we will be happy and have all that we desire. We believe that there is the time and space to handle everything. The truth is, one way or another, everything DOES get done -- but at what cost to you and those around you?
For decades now, women have been told "you can have it all," and let's face it, ALL is the reason why balance is elusive. You simply can't be 'all in' at work and home without paying some price. There are times when you need to be more present at work or home. The scale tips. It really is a delicate balance. And the balance may not be equal at all times.
Balancing Home and Work-Life
There is great news! There has been a shift over time and men are doing more at home. That comes as a welcome relief. Remarkable as that is, most of the household responsibilities fall squarely on women. Most women manage the business of the home and men or partners are happy to help when asked or directed. Even younger couples tend to follow traditional gender roles. [See Gallup poll.]
At home, partners must tackle the challenges and share ownership of all the duties and responsibilities. Do that, and you'll surely be moving in the right direction of the elusive work-life balance.
In sharing household responsibilities, women need to give up control over how something gets done. Are you appreciative of the tasks yet get irritated that something is not being done 'the right way? Handing off responsibilities means letting go of control (let it go and let them take full ownership of the task). That's a tough pill to swallow for a lot of women, but it will literally set you free and lighten your burden. Does it really matter how the dishwasher is loaded or how a room is vacuumed?
How to Balance Mom-Life and Work and Why It's So Challenging
How to balance mom life and work is highly dependent on having reliable helpers when you need them.
For working mothers everywhere, there's so much to juggle: mom guilt, sick children, childcare woes, being able to attend a child's sports or school event, or even scheduling and making doctor’s appointments, and the list goes on.
Women are so adept at juggling multiple tasks that they constantly process an overabundance of thoughts in their brains. When they're at work, they feel guilty about not caring for those things at home. And then, at home, they feel a nagging fear of judgment from co-workers because they don't have time to do it all at the office. Caring for children and family comes first. It's an ongoing cycle where mothers keep thinking about all the stuff that's not yet done.
Working mothers need to learn to ask for help because nobody ever said you have to do this alone. Split up duties with your partner. Call a friend, neighbor, or relative and ask for assistance with meeting kids at the bus, split driving duties, and as our mothers did - don’t be afraid to borrow a cup of sugar. I recall a snowy school day with a delayed bus schedule. Four parents were late for work at our bus stop. Be the first to suggest taking turns. Other parents will be grateful.
Accept that there will always be things popping up when you have children and work. Try to plan and look ahead, especially with the child's schoolwork, so you're not surprised. Don’t depend on your child to remember. With everything digital, look at the school calendar weekly, just as you would your work calendar.
Give yourself a break and build a network with other moms (and dads) that support you, especially when you're in a pinch. Maybe they pick up the kids and you pick up the pizza.
Family Issues and Work-Life Balance
Family issues and work-life balance isn't just about children; they can be about any family member.
All kinds of family issues can arise and affect work-life balance. Whether or not you have children, you may have aging parents or family members with health problems, marital or domestic partner strife, or a problematic co-parent.
Family emergencies, hospitalizations, elder care, finding nursing homes, caretaking parents, and all kinds of challenges will show up that need immediate attention. It is different from meeting the needs of children, yet just as stressful.
Stress multiplied by stress equals exhaustion and overwhelm. Stop trying to be a one-woman show; you don’t need to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
When Your Boss Doesn't Respect Work-Life Balance -- What Then?
Don't assume that your boss doesn't respect work-life balance – maybe you are pre-judging him/her.
When you're facing difficulties, you'll need to communicate one-on-one with your boss and try to make mutually beneficial arrangements.
You need to understand that the boss is under stress to make sure that the business moves forward, things get done, and that you're a valuable employee. And reasonably enough, your boss needs you to produce, and there may not be a way to re-allocate your work.
Accept that he/she is not a mean boss or some tyrant (though it's entirely possible). But it could be that he/she is getting a lot of pressure from above.
You'll need to have an open conversation:
- What needs to be done?
- What are your current limitations?
- What are his/her limitations?
And ultimately come up with a win-win solution for both of you.
How Does Setting Boundaries Improve Work-Life Balance for Women?
Saying 'yes' to things you should be saying 'no' to leads to burnout – not balance.
Boundaries are about setting limits and saying no to what doesn't serve your highest and best.
You cannot be available 24-7. Set some ground rules, "I don't accept work calls after 6 PM or before 8 AM," and stick to it.
Setting limits as to what you'll allow in your work and home life scenario is critical to your wellness.
How Can Partnering with a Coach Help You Improve Work-Life Balance?
Work-life balance is often elusive for women, and it might stay elusive (especially if you try to do it all yourself).
A coach will be your greatest cheerleader while also pointing out opportunities for improvement and growth.
A coach can help you step back and analyze the reality of your situation and offer a different perspective to help you understand and discern what it is that can be delegated, set aside, or bypassed entirely. You'll find a coach to be particularly helpful in setting up those boundaries and providing insights on having those difficult conversations.
Why do it alone when you can have a coach help you achieve balance with greater ease?
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