The entire concept of work-life balance became serious talk when women started to actively engage in the workforce. In this specific regard, women are considered gamechangers!
Women in the old-fashioned times are only limited to child-rearing and homemaking. But today’s modern women actively help their partners in financially supporting their children, on top of achieving their own personal career goals in today’s industry.
Work-life balance simply refers to striking a state of stability between career and personal life.3 These pertains giving equal attention to the challenges of maintaining one’s career and the challenges of maintaining one’s family and relationships.
In the long run, however, the work-life concept has expanded to include not just women and mothers, but the family as a whole - even the elderly, people with special needs and disabilities, single employees, and even childless couples.1
Work-life balance is assumed to be a concern mainly for working parents, where the "life" in the equation refers to caring for the children in the household. But taking into consideration that people from different walks of life have their own specific individual needs, research has shown that work-life balance is perceived to be a strike between work-family balance and work-health balance.1
But what is it with women and how did they revolutionize the work-life balance concept?
Life After Childbirth
Every woman’s life changes drastically once she gives birth to her first child. Even more, if the woman is a professional careerwoman who has cemented herself at the workplace, at her own pace, at her own time.
Suddenly, maternal instincts kick in and the professional careerwoman gets torn in between caring for her offspring, making sure the baby’s needs are met through providing financially, and even losing herself. Even if the husband proved to be a good provider, every woman during this time will often feel lost and overwhelmed with a whole new responsibility. Babies are born to be fully dependent on their mothers, and most often a careerwoman is not used to having someone fully depend on her for nourishment, comfort, and just about everything.
Let us face it: it is often too difficult to achieve the perfect balance between career and motherhood. There must be a sort of trade-off along the line. Even research has shown that motherhood is indeed “costly” to women’s careers. The good news is, these costs naturally decrease as the children get older.2
We usually hear the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” and it is undoubtedly true. Especially for a careerwoman. Take for instance: breastfeeding. Breastfeeding seems to be simple and natural, but some women are faced with the challenge of a low milk supply. Sleepless nights, exhaustion from nursing and housework, coupled with the pressure to return to work sooner or later, take its toll on a careerwoman. As a result, most women turn to their own mothers or family members for help, and even go as far as to take nannies and housemaids to delegate some of the work to. Others eventually give up, and resort to bottle feeding.
As the baby grows, the demand for attention and a whole new take on parenting evolves as well. Aside from the existing challenges at work, the careerwoman takes on a novel challenge in child-rearing. This involves helping kids with schoolwork, dropping the kids at a childcare facility, following up on time with doctor’s appointments and vaccinations, and the list goes on.
Parenting methods cannot be boxed in. And for a professional careerwoman, it will be a challenge she could not run away from. Parenting must be fit to the child you are raising, and it takes up time, effort, and knowledge. But as a professional careerwoman, someone does not have to lose herself while giving the best care to her children.
But women are gamechangers! A professional careerwoman can redirect her entire life for her children.
So how do we start?
Keeping Your Sanity and Your Identity
There is absolutely no shortcut to achieving the ideal work-life balance.
But we can draw out some simple steps to keep our sanity and identity as a professional and as a mother at the same time.
1) Know your own meaning of balance.
Because let’s face it, there will never be such thing as work-life balance. It can only be perfect as you deem it to be!
Thus, it is particularly important to set your own expectations and be in touch with reality. Set your priorities and draw your boundaries. Make adjustments for your time with your kids and your husband. Limit tasks at work to office hours only.
In short, draw your own concept of “balance”, and do not listen to unsolicited advice around you on what choices to make. Most importantly however, stay resilient and open to adjustments. It is going to be a trial-and-error process, but for the sake of yourself and the kids, you know it is going to be worth it.
If you are at a loss on how to create your own idea of “balance”, an organizational psychologist suggests putting these factors into perspective.4 Visualize your ideal experience with regards to these areas in your life:
· Friends and family
· Your partner or significant other
· Physical health
· Your career
· Your idea of fun, leisure, hobby
· Your spirituality
· Everything else important to you
2) Do what you love – then make a living out of it.
It simply means, find a job that you love! Doing something that you love doing will help your body respond positively. Women are known to be exceptionally good and resilient multitaskers, but honestly, do not waste your energy doing something you do not love.
It is best to find a job you are so passionate about that you would even do it for free. Do not stay in a job that is draining you. If you find yourself in a toxic working environment, then apparently it is time to look for another job.
3) The house does not have to be perfect – good enough is enough.
When you used to pride yourself in the thought that you are the best cook in the household, or that you alone can do the family laundry perfectly, well it is time to let go. The idea of being the perfect careerwoman, the perfect wife or the perfect mother drains the joy out of motherhood.5
So, exercise that leadership skills of yours and delegate. Spare a day or two to train a housemaid and let her take on the job. Accept help from your husband or partner.
4) Set a firm boundary between home and work.
With technology, we often find ourselves too absorbed in our work as we can be easily reached via our tabs, laptops, and phones. Much more that with the current pandemic, most of us are working remotely from home!
Although this sounds good in the beginning (a.k.a. being able to keep an eye on the kids while working), this might become burdensome in the long run. Always remember that multitasking is not always productive. It is never a good idea to continually shift your attention from one task to another. It is better to give two hours undivided attention to a particular task than spend five hours shifting between two tasks.
This is a particularly challenging step these days but working from home does not mean that a mother cannot devote quality time for home alone. You can try any of these ideas:
· Use a separate computer or laptop for work and shut it down after clocking out.
· Use a separate email or phone number for work-related stuff.
· Jot down a to-do list just before you clock-out, and do it the day after.
· If you are going to have family vacations or outings, inform your boss and your colleagues about it so they will understand that you are off-limits on that day.
5) Focus your energy on what matters.
It is time to focus on tasks and get them done as soon as possible. Analyze your to-do list and cut out tasks that have hardly any value. Minimize activities that will not contribute growth to either your career or your personal life.
Dr. Marilyn Puder-York, a psychologist, cautions that “many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value”.6 She advises to take a conscious effort in limiting the time spent “on the web and social media sites, making personal calls, or checking your bank balance.”
6) Take a break, make time for yourself and your loved ones.
Shutting off work occasionally is a good way to reset. Unfortunately, most people nowadays fail to include this in their planning, resulting to burnout.
According to a study conducted by the US Travel Association in 2018, 52% of employees have unused vacation leave at the end of the year. One major reason is the fear of having backlogs upon returning to work. Nonetheless, proper planning often resolves the problem, aside from not giving your workmates a headache for going on duty in your behalf.
So Mommy, get that time off! It depends on how you define unplugging and resetting, but make sure you are doing it for yourself – not for the kids, or your husband.
Take time to recharge. If your definition of recharging means going to a beach nearby or a retreat to the hills for the weekend with your family, then so be it. What is important is to value the moment and shut off work-related calls and emails once in a while.
7) Set goals and priorities – and stick to them.
As simple as it may sound, but goal setting and restructuring your day can give you fulfillment both as a mother and as a careerwoman.
Identify the hours of the day where you find yourself most productive and block it for the most difficult work-related tasks. Avoid any disturbances during this time, including checking on your emails or phone, as this will disrupt your productivity.
The point is, the efficient you are in finishing your task on time, the more time you can spare for relaxation. Furthermore, the more time you can give undivided attention to your spouse and children.
1) Gragnano, A., Simbula, S., & Miglioretti, M. (2020). Work-Life Balance: Weighing the Importance of Work-Family and Work-Health Balance. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), 907. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030907
2) Kahn, J. R., García-Manglano, J., & Bianchi, S. M. (2014). The Motherhood Penalty at Midlife: Long-Term Effects of Children on Women's Careers. Journal of marriage and the family, 76(1), 56–72. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12086
3) Sanfilippo, M. (2020). How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today. Retrieved from: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5244-improve-work-life-balance-today.html
4) Borysenko, K. (2019). Simple Strategies to Improve Your Work-Life Balance. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/karlynborysenko/2019/08/09/simple-strategies-to-enhance-your-work-life-balance/?sh=4870ae7457ad
5) Walravens, S. (2011). 10 Tips for Achieving a Healthier Work-Life Balance. Retrieved from: https://www.healthywomen.org/your-wellness/self-care--mental-health/10-tips-achieving-healthier-work-life-balance
6) Ramya, R. (2014). Work-Life Strategies of Women. Retrieved from: http://www.irdindia.in/journal_ijrdmr/pdf/special_iss_1/7.pdf
7) US Travel Association. (2018). State of American Vacation 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/media_root/document/2018_Research_State%20of%20American%20Vacation%202018.pdf