Finding the Perfect Balance
Managing Priorities Between Work and Family Life
Aline Kabanda, Akilah Institute Rwanda Country Director
When you are in a professional leadership role and you have so many obligations as a mom, wife, friend, mentor, sister and daughter, you need to assume all these roles within a 24-hour period on a daily basis. I was overwhelmed trying to give my best all the time. Knowing that my kids were my priority, I worked to balance all the rest around them. I started being intentional about establishing my work priorities right. This has been a journey of learning and adjustments, one that has not been perfect, but which had love at the center of everything — love for my children, husband, family and work.
Balancing work life and family life is a worldwide issue. Women from all cultures and backgrounds face the same dilemma. I do not have the pretention to say that I have all the tools necessary to live a balanced life, but I would like to share what has been working for me and lessons I have learned over the years:
First, knowing what’s most important: Anyone who is balancing multiple life roles has to know at the end of the day what is most important. Mothers and wives across the world will answer this question differently. For me, I know that family is my first priority. When I make decisions, my children and family come first. I always keep these two questions in mind: “Do my time and decisions reflect my priorities? And how do I need to adjust?”
Second, setting boundaries accordingly: Knowing what is most important to me brings the responsibility to set boundaries and make decisions accordingly, even if I am sometimes worried about the fallout. I have been learning to set boundaries and stick to them. Boundaries give me the structure that I need to know when to stop, switch roles and do so with peace of mind.
Third, giving time to yourself: I cannot stress the importance of giving time to yourself. If you are a wife and mother reading this right now, you might be thinking, “How can I juggle all these roles and still have time for myself?” It is easy to get trapped into giving all of yourself — your time, your presence, your energy and your focus — to the demands of family or work, but giving to yourself is vital to continuing to pour into others. For me, that looks like setting aside time to sit, reflect, breath and create space to give back to myself. It just takes small ways: having morning tea by myself for 5 minutes, finding a book that inspires me, or picking up a small hobby. Be intentional with giving time to yourself so you can give more to others. This isn’t selfish. It’s just fair and important.
Last but not least, be passionate: It is very important to know what really matters to you. From the beginning, doing meaningful work mattered most to me. Being passionate completes me as a person and allows me to be a better mom, wife and friend because I get fulfillment from the work that I do. In all that I have going on, there is plenty of room for fatigue. One of the best tools for combatting fatigue is passion. When I am feeling fulfilled and productive during the workday, I notice that when I get home, I have a lot to give to my family. When I am successful in my day and proud of what I have accomplished, the fatigue doesn’t have as much room to set in.
While I am suggesting these tools, this is a journey for me too, and I am constantly thinking about ways to improve. Every year is different, but my priorities stay the same. I learn as a mother and a leader and I get better at balancing my career and my family.
How to balance our personal and professional lives is one of the biggest questions facing our generation of women. We need to continue the conversation as we encourage and inspire each other to be all that we can be.