The other day, my son asked me to play cards with him as I was in the middle of finishing some client work. Exasperated, I asked him to give me another five minutes so “Mommy could finish working”. At this point, it had been about ten series of five-minutes I had requested from him, complete with sighs on my part and mini tantrums on his. Yet this time, instead of throwing yet another mini-tantrum, he simply turned around and said to me: “You never want to play with me”…
As I watched his little frame slowly turn around, an unusually sharp pain pierced my mom’s heart. Kids have this uncanny ability to speak truth in all circumstances, and this time again, he was right. My schedule had been unusually charged, between both kids, school, home and life in general. Like so many other working moms, I was trying to balance my work and my life, to juggle it all, to be all I could be…
As working moms, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we can balance it all. It’s tempting to buy into the notion that we can have it all, attempting to balance the large plate of our personal and professional obligations on our already over-extended shoulders. What we don’t often realize is that we cannot do it all, and neither should we. When I’m working on a project, I’m not available to my family, and vice-versa. There are also times when my family life takes over, and I spend less time at work. At other times, I may work overtime to meet a work deadline, and have less personal time. All of this makes work-life balance quite elusive at best, if not unattainable; which makes work-life integration not only much needed, but painfully necessary…
Your work is part of your life. In the same way, whether you like it or not, you do bring the effects of your lifestyle with you to work. While they may not be readily perceptible, they still impact the way you work and how productive you end up being. This is not about using your every waking hour to fit in work and other commitments. Neither is it about being available at all times, and jumping from one task to the other in an effort to be unrealistically flexible. It’s about de-compartmentalizing our lives and careers to create more fluidity between work and life. The point of work-life integration is to soften, not harden, our approach to how we work and live.
In my experience, I’ve found that having the flexibility to integrate work and life, in a healthy manner, allows me to be more present as a mom, wife, and woman. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean working at all hours of night or having my phone constantly on. What it means for me is that I’m able to work from home when my child is sick. It also means that I can take advantage of the kids napping to sneak in an email or two; or that I can leverage my peak productivity hours instead of strictly relying on an imposed work schedule.
Here is how we can all integrate our work and life as working moms, instead of spinning our wheels on a constant search for an elusive work-life balance:
Know yourself and your circumstances
It all starts with understanding what works for you and your particular circumstances. This means understanding how you work best, what your family and environment needs are, and how you are best fulfilled. This will help you determine how best to integrate your work and life, and make it work for you and your entire family.
Many moms have no other choice than to work around their kids’ schedule. For this reason, many end up sacrificing their careers and personal fulfillment. This can be avoided by finding the right formula to meet work and family obligations in a healthy and productive manner.
Build a work-life integration strategy
Along with understanding what works best for you as a working mom in terms of work and personal arrangements, t’s important to build an effective integration strategy. This includes setting a schedule of priorities for yourself and your family, and sticking to it.
For some, it may means having a specific daily focus, to maximize the available time at their disposal. For others, it may mean working non-traditional hours to prioritize their family care during the day. Ask yourself what strategy will work best for you, and be open to experimenting as you go along.
Focus on being present
Work-life integration is not about doing more and fitting in as much as you can during the day. Rather, it’s about softening the mental and physical barriers between work and life, so we can be more present.
Instead of being stressed out at work because you’re not able to pick up your sick child at school, you can have the peace of mind to care for him or her. Rather than being distracted while spending time with your family by work concerns, you can actually be more present.
Prioritize your happiness and well-being
The most important aspect of work-life integration is to be happy and fulfilled. It’s to move with fluidity through life and work, and not be compelled to make unnecessary drastic and difficult choices. How many working moms have to sacrifice their family in order to be successful professionally? How many others are sitting at home, unable to focus on their family, because of a broken career or business dream?
In order to show up well at home or at work, you must be fulfilled and happy. If that means having a non-traditional schedule to be present with your loved ones, then so be it. If that also means relying on a spouse’s support while we climb the corporate ladder or build your dream business, then so be it as well.
Be open to change
Integrating work and life also means allowing a certain sense of flexibility in. Being open to change, whether professionally or personally, is the key to finding the right formula for you and your family.
No two careers or lives are alike, which implies that what may work for you may be a total disaster for me. By welcoming change and the possibility of experimenting with various ways to integrate your work and life, you are able to find what success really looks like for you.
How do you integrate work and life as a working mom?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sis.