The term work-life balance is thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? It immediately conjures up images of a set of scales with work on one side and family on the other and a woman in the middle trying to perfectly balance those scales. While we all wish to find balance in our lives between the things we would like to do and the things we have to do, this in no way means that balance has to be fifty / fifty.
The work-life balance should be something fluid that changes from person to person depending on what you as a person want to get out of life and what makes you as an individual happy. That balance should also be fluid throughout a lifetime. Women, as well as men, will want different things at different stages in their lives. Here’s how you can find your balance:
Know yourself and accept yourself
If working on your career is what makes you happy, then don’t keep trying to achieve an even split between work and family. Don’t worry about who might judge you, be happy with who you are and what makes you tick. It may well change over time, but you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders if you can accept who you are at this point in your life.
Equally, if you have chosen to spend more of your time focused on family than work, then don’t let others make you feel guilty that you may have given up a career to do it. There is no one way to get it right in life, what’s important is being happy with your choices …and not being afraid to change your mind down the road.
Get rid of any negativity
Be less judgemental about other people’s choices and less afraid of others’ judgment on your own choices. Bear in mind the expression ‘water off a duck’s back’. If you care less about what they think you will be a much happier person. Try being positive towards those you feel negative about and you may well be able to change the dynamic of your relationship. However, if there are people in your life who you feel are constantly judging you, or who seem to constantly exude negativity, then don’t be afraid to just step away, at least temporarily. The same with commitments you don’t enjoy, stop doing them or trade with someone else …you may enjoy something they hate and vice versa.
Simplify your life
Get rid of the clutter of things and commitments that when you stop to think about it are just not that essential in your life. Think through or write a list of all the activities you do from going to work, to dealing with the house, to looking after the kids or other family members and ditch those that add least value to your life. Reorganise your workspace and your living space, keeping only the things you really feel you need and nothing more. Ensuring everything has its place will mean you waste less time searching for things amongst the clutter. Keep one day a week for errands, rather than trying to multi-task everyday …focusing on one commitment at a time is far less stressful.
When it comes to children, organise their activities to ensure the least stress and hassle for the whole family. It’s all very well giving kids the opportunity to try new and exciting activities, but if you are going to spend your time screaming at them as you rush from one place to another is it really worth it? Little kids love to help! If you start getting them to pitch in around the house while they’re young they won’t see it as a chore. Get them to prepare their own school uniforms and bags. Turn making pack lunches into a family activity. Keep meal-times simple and don’t be tempted to make separate meals for fussy kids (or adults!) …it’s just creating a rod for your own back.
Divide and conquer
Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Being a perfectionist can be exhausting, so learn to delegate both at work and at home. No one needs to be chained to traditional roles anymore, so if your partner likes cooking and you enjoy a bit of DIY, so be it. Undertake harder tasks together if it will reduce stress levels and free up more of your time for work or other activities you might actually enjoy. Don’t hold back from enlisting help from friends and family when you need it. As long as both parties understand that if one says they can’t help out this time, the other is not going to be offended …then no one will feel pressured into doing things they can’t manage.
So is it really possible to ‘have it all’, to have a perfectly balanced life? It’s striving for this perfect balance, this pie in the sky, that at the end of the day causes more stress than anything else. At the end of the day it really depends on what your definition of ‘having it all’ is. It is something very subjective, so be true to yourself and realistic with your goals and you may well be able to ‘have it all’, but perhaps not all at the same time!