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.

Comments

  1. Great article and true there will always be another wave. I took control of my career a few years ago (clearly I am a slow learner) but once I did I was much happier and I have learned so much and do a better job. We are in charge of our own destiny and we don’t like the path we are on we can change regardless of the age.

    • Dorothy, so pleased to hear you took control of your career, in a way that works best for you. I think we can all be slow learners at times. In both of my businesses I’ve had moments of feeling like a ‘slow learner’. LOL. I think as we grow and change, and our businesses grow and change, there are growing pains. The best thing is to recognize, like you said, that we are in charge of our down destiny and we have the power to guide our own journeys.

  2. We all need reminders like these so thank you for writing this. I love the benefits that come with the solepreneur lifestyle. My lunch breaks are social with friends to recharge my E in ENFP, my breaks are outside with my dog for balance and wellness. I do preventative yoga in the living room to keep my grumpy shoulders happy if to much time spent at the computer and a headset is the best investment to make.

    It took a long time to learn NO also means not now, whether it is me saying it or me hearing it.

    Keep writing Adrienne and I will happily keep reading and reminding myself through your wisdom.

    • Gayle, I appreciate the feedback – thank you! You also share an important reminder with us soloprenuers…there are lots of perks! Working for ourselves includes some amazing benefits!!

      Have a wonderful week!

  3. I love Janet’s point about needing to plan things to take us away from the home office on the weekends. As long as I am looking at the work that needs to be done, it is hard to free my mind from thinking about them and feeling the need to work on them.

    • Seana, I struggle with this as well. Having a home-life and a work-life so closely interwoven can be challenging at times. There are days I wish I was better at ‘turning off’ work. Janet’s reminder to plan things away from home over the weekend is very important to achieving a solid brain break.

      Does anyone else have strategies they can share about separating work from life, especially during the weekend or non-work hours?

  4. The dance of finding that balance that’s right for you is a constantly shifting one. I agree that the idea of going for perfection in all areas can hold you back and also create an enormous amount of stress. Setting boundaries between work and personal life, like Janet suggests, an excellent way to do this. Another is being present. As a solopreneur that raised her children while simultaneously building a business, I found that giving my full attention to my clients when I was with them and giving my full attention to my family or friends when I was with them, helped me enjoy all aspects of my life. Not to say I didn’t have challenges. I did. But for the most part, by allowing myself the gift of being present, I was able to face those challenges head on and be grateful for the moments of joy, struggle, and growth.

  5. I loved this post, and it struck close to home for me. I feel a little overwhelmed sometimes about the waves that my counterparts are riding, then i realized that is their wave, i have to ride my own.

    • Jill, you bring up a good point about comparison to others during the journey. I agree, it can be distracting to see what others are doing/managing and wondering why we can’t do the same. Your line: ” I have to ride my own” is wonderful! Yes, we are each on our own journey…so we each make/ride our own waves. Thank you for sharing!!

  6. Great advice when blending your home and business lives. I find that taking breaks in the middle of the day works great for me. Doing work till lunch, then taking a break and doing personal tasks till about 6:00 PM, and then working for a few hours in the evening makes the day feel more productive and allows me to be happier. Thanks for sharing.

    • Wonderful strategy Sabrina, thank you for sharing. I use a similar approach with a mid-day break. Sometimes I find it hard to get back into the work groove after lunch though, but I think this is the case for any type of worker. LOL.

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