The Pursuit of Work/Life Balance: Step Back to the Shore
By Adrienne Tom.
It’s been almost 10 years since I became a mom and a business owner, back to back. I tried my best to prepare, but each role involved a lot of “learn as you go.” One of my biggest personal challenges was finding a way to simultaneously meet the needs of both of these high-demand roles.
When things got tough – and trust me, they often did – I told myself I needed to find a better way to achieve balance. I wanted to be a loving, caring mother while also performing as a kick-butt career pro. I felt that with some time and effort I could reach relative equality. Yet striving for perfection held me back.
After several years of precarious efforts I stumbled across an article by a mompreneur that said something along the lines of: raising kids and working is like standing on the beach near the ocean watching the waves roll in. You want to be in there riding those waves of opportunity, but sometimes you have to sit patiently on the shore to attend to the things that need you the most. Other waves will come along, and when the timing is right you can jump back in.
This analogy hit home for me. It rang true. I didn’t have to chase and ride every single wave. It was okay to let some waves roll by as I tended to the things that mattered on shore. There would be more waves, more opportunities.
With this in mind, I was able to let go of the relentless pursuit to “do it all,” and was able to find that elusive perfect balance. I could ride the waves of highs and lows at a pace that worked for me, while doing my best not to lose sight of the shore.
Truthfully, balance is different for everyone. Colleagues agree that it doesn’t exist in any one perfect form.
Sharon Graham, the Executive Director of Career Professionals of Canada shares that, “I am most successful when I ‘blend’ my entrepreneurial life with my personal life. I am doing what I love and so the lines between work and personal life are blurred.”
Maureen McCann of Promotion Career Solutions agrees that she doesn’t balance. She also blends. In her post Don’t Balance. Blend! she recommends that we “stop trying to balance a myriad of unconnected goals from different areas of life, whether they involve family, finances, fitness, career, or love. Instead, blend your goals into one incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.”
The strategies needed to succeed in both work and life will certainly vary from person to person, but to help ease stress Sharon recommends regular work breaks to spend time with the people in your life. In addition she shares her personal strategy for keeping things well blended: “I purposely schedule ‘tea time’ at the end of the day, just to relax and take a breather. When I feel happy and healthy, I find that I am vastly more productive. Blending work and life allows me to best meet the needs of my family and my community of practitioners.”
Janet Barclay, the founder of Organized Assistant, shares a similar strategy: “I manage work/life balance by stopping work at 5 pm every day and closing my office door. On weekends I often find myself at my computer by default, so I need to plan personal activities such as family visits, lunch with friends, or mini photography expeditions to keep that from happening. I also started a personal blog to combine my passion for my work with my leisure activities.”
Finally, Maureen reminds us all that we aren’t alone in this process: “People want to help you. It’s true. If given the opportunity to help someone close to you, you would, wouldn’t you? You might be surprised at how often we have access to the things we want within our own network (think: hockey tickets, job interview, introduction to the nice neighbour down the street), but because we don’t ask for them, we don’t receive them.” Maureen further stresses that if we need change, or want change, it is up to us to make that happen: “It’s your job to make yourself happy. No one will do it for you – not your spouse, your kids, your best friend, or your boss. It’s you, just you.”
With these thoughts in mind, lessen your burdens and stop trying to reach a level of perfection that might not be attainable. Instead, employ strategies to support goals and happiness that are in better harmony with your unique life and work situation. Don’t be shy to take the reins and make decisions that work best for YOU, asking for help along the way.
If the water is stormy today and you aren’t getting the results you want or need, step back to the shore. There will be calmer waters soon. Watch for that well-timed wave …and jump in.