How to Balance Work and Family and Thrive
Last week, I and over 100 mothers celebrated the publication of our collaborative creation When You’re Done Expecting, where I contribute my insights from all I’ve learned on how to balance work and kids and thrive. Immediately the book became an international best seller. But the first thought that hit me in truth was not how impactful our message is but that my own message is my own reminder before all else because I was certainly not walking my talk at the moment of publication for over a month before the book came out, or so I felt.
As mothers, we work really hard to get it right. We want to be amazing mothers. Many of us are ambitious, we want to achieve, do great things, add our bit the world, and/or we have several reasons for why we work so intensely at the work we do, not least to give our kids what all kids deserve. And as part of my own learning journey over the week of celebration and trepidation around my brief shortcoming, I have developed even greater insight into that balance between work and family.
I learned a critical principle to that balance — letting go of perfectionism. I let go of perfectionism long time ago — I thought! But I still strove to do what any great mother does, and more. I still pushed myself to create things that are meaningful and impactful in my work life, and just that little bit more. And so, here, we can forget how to balance and there will be times that fall utterly short. Balance doesn’t mean giving all of yourself in one direction and in the same quantity of yourself in another.
Letting go of perfectionism is key to getting the balance between family and work and thriving right; that is, letting go of the idea of creating that perfect balance. I will say it’s okay for me to tell my daughter, the younger of my two children who still requires a lot of attention, that I have some major deadlines and that I need that focus that’s required. Fortunately, she’s old enough to get my ‘why’s’. And one of my key values and key purposes is raising happy, fulfilled kids who learn how to prepare to take on their own purposes. A deadline can and will drop too, if need be! If there is a recipe to letting go, it’s forgiving yourself when you just can’t make that deadline and forgiving yourself when your child didn’t get all of you. In “failing” at perfecting both directions at times, I believe my children have learned that preparing for living their purposes entails hard work and also forgiveness, kindness, and collaborative effort.
Without my ‘why’s’, I could never do all the things I achieve and feel good about and do all I do on the home front that I am proud of. Your ‘why’s’ will get you through the difficult juggling acts, because juggling is part of balancing. Through the times you fall and need to get up and dust yourself off. Through the times people let you down when you needed help the most to do that balancing act. Through the times you haven’t a clue how you’re going to do it when yet another unexpected wrench is thrown into that balancing act.
If you haven’t given much thought to your ‘why’s’, get clear on them. Evaluate where you are putting your time. You’ve only got so much time in the day, so evaluate where your time is going. Evaluate what is energizing and what is energy depriving. Where are you spending your time and energy? If you don’t understand why you are stretched and stressed, you can’t make the changes to thrive as a parent and make a difference. Because, while parenting and working is a balancing act, that act will deplete you if you’re not mindful of energy. Write down five ‘why’s’. Why are those ‘why’s’ your ‘why’s’? Why are they so important to you? Evaluate where you can eliminate activities that do not line up with those ‘why’s’. Put your energy behind creating, facilitating, allowing, enabling and when needed, pushing, with affirming to yourself your ‘why’s’ daily.
If you are not making wellbeing a priority in this juggling act, you cannot hope to balance work and family and thrive. According to Arianna Huffington, every disease, whether it’s heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, is connected to sleep deprivation. My purpose is to be a healthy parent and this is key if my purpose is to raise happy, fulfilled kids who learn how to prepare to take on their own purposes. Unfortunately, many of us have convinced ourselves that we are super parents or that we can handle more or even that we have to. The unfortunate part is that we end up barely surviving and often collapsing. Too many of us wait until we get a wake up call before we choose balance and thriving.
Let some of your ideals of perfecting parenthood, changing the world, or even creating perfect balance go. In so doing, you are not letting go of your dreams. You’re not letting your kids down. You are embracing the principles of wellbeing, a broader understanding of success, and balance. And when you embrace putting your energy behind your ‘why’s’ and removing what doesn’t align, you are setting yourself up for thriving as a parent and in the work you do.
For more on balancing parenting, work and thriving, and a ton of inspiration, wisdoms and stories, read When You’re Done Expecting: A Heartfelt Collection of Inspiration Stories and Advice on Motherhood.