The struggle of the juggle is a topic very dear to my heart as a working mother of three, a Director, a Chairperson, a wife and an individual.
So what is the struggle of the juggle? When I asked some of the key New Zealand women I know, they talked about this being the reality that you are in a continuous cycle of compromise. It is about the constant struggle to get on top of both your work and personal life. For some the biggest challenge is having to juggle a demanding job that requires travel, inflexible hours, demands of managing people and projects, as well as trying to spend quality time with family, and run a household. In fact, one of the key learnings I have seen while researching this topic is the main difference between women and men, is that whilst we all have demands in our personal lives, it is the woman, regardless of her career demands who is still the one who manages the household. It comes from years of women being the homemaker, and rightly or wrongly there are still expectations from both men and women that this role should stay with the wife or mother.
When I had my first child, I learnt about what it meant to struggle to get the juggle right between all the roles I felt I needed or wanted to have in my life: mother, career woman, wife, individual, friend, daughter, sister and community contributor. I found the pendulum of balance would sometimes swing too far left, and sometimes swing too far right, and what I learnt is this is simply a reality of a working woman who has a lot of balls to juggle. Whatever the balls you are juggling, the key is to understand your trigger points to know when there are too many, or one is spinning out of control. And the reality is, it is no longer simply work / life balance, but work / home / life integration, and understanding how you integrate them all.
If you are struggling to juggle the many demands in your life, these are the top six tips I have gained from inspirational New Zealand professional women on how to to juggle well while maintaining some form of sanity!
1. Focus on the benefits (3 good things that happen every working day)
Christ Peterson, guru of Positive Psychology says having work life balance is a misnomer, because work is part of life. Ideally we are passionate about the work we do which brings meaning to our lives and for people whose work engages them fully, the workplace can be a great source of psychological wellbeing which boosts them in all other areas of their life.
Reconnect to your benefits of being a professional; perhaps being a good role model to your children, making a difference to your team or the community, becoming financially independent, etc.
2. Set clear boundaries with yourself (and potentially others) and stick to them
If you have decided to have 3 evenings a week where it is family time only, avoid checking your emails, or answer that work call. What is the worst thing that will happen if someone has to leave a message? What are you negotiables and your non negotiables around work and home e.g some people are a definite no to work on the weekend, where for others, it is a definite no to travel.
3. Simplify and plan
Do your best not to over complicate things. Don’t over schedule your kids, perhaps 1-2 actives a term each. it’s ok for them to have down time or for others to take them to their gym class – and when the guilt creeps in, remember it’s ok to not make every single event, (especially when you have more than one child). Plan for the simple things like booking in a hair appointment – clear your diary a wee bit, schedule in that lunch with a friend, if that gives you joy and energy.
4. Make best use of your time
Almost all of the women I spoke to said the one piece of advice they would give is to learn how to prioritise your time well and know what to say yes to and know what to say no to. I believe that a career and a family can co-exist, the reality is when your schedule is full and you decide to take something else on, you have to let something go, or say no to something else, in order to make more time.
Become an “out-sourcer”, think about contacting Dream Au Pair, My Food Bag, a cleaner albeit a spring clean once a quarter, – my clients who are happier and more fulfilled, understand what gives them energy and happiness and they make time for it. Sometimes that means letting go of having things done your way. e.g shopping, washing, cleaning (does it really matter?).
5. Be kind to yourself (oxygen mask theory)
I see a common theme that we feel we have to do it all, we have to be busy all of the time otherwise surely that is a sign that we aren’t performing? It is ok to say, “things are great”, rather than, “I am so busy…..” all of the time.
Monitor your self talk, and when that voice in your head is going strong, imagine that you are talking to your friend. How would you respond to them if they shared struggles with you…. now translate that to yourself. How often do we beat ourselves up in our own heads. “I am such an idiot for saying I would help on this project….”
Can you book one to one time with yourself? I often have women telling me they feel like they constantly have to give, give, give and there is no time for themselves. Make this a priority, if you want to keep your sanity.
6. Build a community (friends, family, partner)
Make sure your support network at home is set in place. Agree with your family how you can support each other. Look to help others and in turn, say “yes” when others offer help to you. To coin Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase, let your partner be a real partner.