I have two daughters and I want the world for them, and I’m sure I’m not the only mother to think so. We all want our children to have the best of everything and this includes not just material benefits but also quality time we spend with them. Though we are intelligent, educated, and hard-working, women find it challenging to juggle both work and home sometimes. Irrespective of how progressive the world gets, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining a stable and comfortable home environment falls on our slim shoulders. (Yes, yes, our spouses are very helpful and supportive, but we still run the show). But are we ready to take a backseat when it comes to work? Are we comfortable turning in work that’s mediocre? Or watching a male colleague take away that increment or promotion which should’ve been ours? Absolutely not. The biggest challenge of our generation is achieving a work-life balance.
A recent study by Fidelity Investments in USA found that 58 per cent of millennials find the quality of their work environment most important when evaluating their current job. In fact the survey went on the show that they actually value work-life balance more than higher pay. All over the world employers are trying to improve the work-life balance of their employees. Several mental health studies have shown that balanced individuals are more productive and happy.
With so much evidence out there perhaps its time we take a moment to reorganise ourselves and make sure we have time to do what matters most to us.
Clarify your work hours and boundaries
Have a chat with your boss to understand what his or her expectations are with regards to your work after office hours. Are you expected to constantly check your e-mails so you don’t miss anything? Do you need to be tuned into the company network on weekends?
That’s not practical or healthy, is it? So set boundaries. There is no need to make yourself a slave. You can still check your messages and respond to calls but within limits and based on a pre-set schedule. Discuss your needs and limitations with your employer. Be honest and open.
Determine your own standards
Don’t try to be a perfectionist all the time. Yes, the presentation must work like a charm but there is no need to spend hours endlessly formatting it. You may have to make some compromises both at work and at home but do it without feeling short-changed about it.
Be flexible, be forgiving
You have a lot on your plate and you try really hard. There may be times when you have to miss your child’s recital or you can’t go out for an after-work movie with your colleagues. You have several commitments that you need to honour and sometimes you simply can’t do it all. So be flexible and be forgiving. Also be rational, you aren’t super-woman.
Let go of the guilt
Yes, you have a toddler and it breaks your heart that you have to leave her for long hours while you are at work but sometimes life’s tough and you gotta go with the flow. If you have an option to stay home or work reduced hours even if it means taking a sabbatical from your work or reduced pay, then do it (if you can afford it). But if the money is important to your family’s wellbeing and progress then don’t beat yourself up about it. Think about the value you add to both your company and also your contribution to your family and pat yourself on your back.
Create a good support network
Be sociable and have a good group of friends, neighbours, co-workers or relatives you can call upon if needed. When it comes to work and children be prepared for surprises. So make sure you have back-up and contingency plans. And be there for your support group too when they are having a rough day.
Invest in quality childcare
This is by far the scariest thing for moms, and especially moms with small children. You see and hear the worst things and you always worry. Don’t. Be proactive, find the right person to take care of your child. Do your research before you hire someone or enrol your child in a day care. Talk to friends and fellow parents before you make such a crucial decision. Trust your instinct and always be on the lookout for any odd behaviour in your child.
When you are at home, be home both mentally and physically. Even if its just 30 minutes that you have before their bed-time and after all your chores, tune out from the rest of the world and just focus on the child and his or her needs. It could be a bedtime story, or a game of Uno or just catching up about her day at school. Don’t even think of sneaking a peek at your phone or watching TV in between.
Have a family calendar where you’ve marked important dates like children’s events, extra-curricular activities, birthdays, and play-dates. Make sure your mornings aren’t rushed. Wake up a little earlier if needed or do what needs to be done at night. Have a place for everything like important papers, keys, so you don’t waste precious time looking for it before you leave for work.
Don’t forget the hubby
In all the drama don’t forget your partner. Make time for him and make sure it’s quality time. You don’t have to go out, you can just have a quiet meal together and talk about things other than work and children.
Keep aside at least half an hour everyday for yourself. Use it for exercise or reading a book or just catching up with your neighbour or just about any -thing that will help you unwind and put a smile on your face. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.