It is an understatement to say that the demands of dealing with the needs of a family and a full-time career can seem overwhelming at times. How do you choose between children with after-school activities and a job with work assignments that require some overtime?
Balance is the key. Creating a mindset and a plan to achieve that balance is critical. Then you need to convince others of the importance of this, so they can support you and be willing to negotiate compromise so all parties are satisfied. Here are five steps that can help.
Step 1 – Be Clear About Your Values
Introspection is needed. Both family and career are important, no doubt about that. But you need to weigh how important your career is and how much you want it to grow within the next ten years or so. This is especially important for working mothers with young children. Think about how much time you are actually willing to give to your career. This is not a light consideration but one that, if taken seriously, will impact lifestyle and job choices.
Step 2 – Determine and Act on Your Priorities Based on These Values
This is the hard part. We find greater personal fulfillment when our actions correspond to our values. If you’re at a point in your career where you feel it is essential to put in extra time, but also feel the tug of your family, you need to let them know so they can support you and understand this time you need is only temporary. If your values pull you in the direction of spending more time with family and friends, you may need to re-evaluate your finances and employment situation.
Step 3 – Look For Ways to Grow More Family Time
Often in our daily routines we miss opportunities to connect. Look for these opportunities. Keeping the lines of communication open in a family can dissipate stress by alleviating concerns and avoiding the build up of resentments. Early morning breakfast can easily become a time of sharing concerns and hopes for the day, as well as give everyone a good start. Consider exercising together regularly – something as simple as a 15-minute walk or a short bike ride. Times of connecting do not need to be long, just enjoyable and open.
Step 4 – Explore Work Arrangements That Are Family-Friendly
Companies want to retain good employees. In times when labor is tight, some businesses become even more willing to negotiate alternative work arrangements. Of course, such arrangements must not interfere with work processes or employee morale. Supervisors need to be especially careful when asked to set precedents. Telecommuting, flex-hours, and job sharing are prime examples of emerging family-friendly workplace policies. If you approach your supervisor with a request, be sure to bring a persuasive argument of how this arrangement would also benefit the organization. Flexing your hours may give you an afternoon off to attend a child’s soccer game, but also make you available an evening a week at work when it’s quiet and you could get more work done.
Step 5 – Take Care of Yourself and Deal With Stress
Don’t let stress pile up – it does have an accumulative effect. Balancing family and career can be draining. Be sure to take good care of yourself. In dealing with the needs of family and career, it’s easy to neglect yourself. When time is a premium, treat yourself in small ways – a book you wanted to read or a movie you wanted to see. Be sure that some of the family activities planned are things you enjoy.
Achieving balance can be challenging and takes time to work out, but it’s worthwhile in the long run.