I started to write my first blog article about the top three things that matter the most to employers and job candidates. I asked hiring managers from a CEO, CFO, VP of Investor Relations, Manager of Talent Acquisition, to an AP Manager. I talked to candidates from a VP of Finance, HR Director, Corporate Recruiter, Staff Accountant, to an Executive Assistant. Across the board, whether it ranked 1, 2, or 3 on their list – every single person mentioned work-life balance. So I wanted to learn: what does this term really mean at an individual level? More importantly, what does this mean to working parents? As a mom of two, creating work-life balance is something I’m extremely passionate about because I know the guilt we feel as working parents is very real. So I wanted to share some tips that have been passed along to me, and trust me when I say, I have tried and will try anything to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This journey will look different for everyone and it changes constantly. Some things that work for one family, may not for another, but what is important to understand is that the following ideas are part of a dynamic, ever changing practice that are unique to your experience.
Find Your Village
Accept that you need help and find your village. Your village consists of people you trust that can help you and vice versa. I know we all feel guilt when our kids are at daycare, after school care or in the care of someone that is not you. This guilt can turn into pain when you’re running late, its past 5pm and you’re rushing to get them so they are not the last kid to get picked up. So find your carpool village. That thing they call carpooling is magic- it’s genius, really. It can be a treat for your kids to ride to or from school or to practice or to games with their best friends. It’s an adventure when they get to go to their friend’s house for dinner. The only whine you’ll hear is complaints when you pick them up and it’s time to go home. It’s a beautiful thing because anything that brings your kids fun and joy equals less guilt for you – just be sure to return the favor when another parent in your village is running behind.
Set Some Separation and Be Where You Are
One high level executive shared with me that she uses phones – one for work and one for personal. On the nights when she is home by 6pm, she puts her work phone away until the kids are tucked in bed and she has had a minute to unwind. She has given certain work contacts her personal phone only to be used in case of a work emergency. She takes time to catch up with her husband before checking her work phone or pulling her laptop out again. On the weekends, she will only check her email in the morning before she starts her day with her family, again mid-day, and before bed and she will only respond if it’s completely necessary. This helps her remain completely engaged with her family. Another executive shared that the mantra she strives to achieve is ‘be where you are’. When you are at work, focus on work and what you want or need to accomplish. When you are at home, be present with your children and spouse. And let go of the guilt – it will consume you. Also, make sure that you make time for yourself.
Divide and Conquer
I talked to the head of human resources at a large corporation. His wife is an attorney and they have four kids – yes, that’s right, four! I asked him to share his work-life balance secrets. He shared that he is a morning person and his wife is not. His kids have to rise early for school and different activities so when he’s not traveling or at an early meeting, he takes the “morning shift”. He knows that this is quality time that he and his kids will always remember. His wife comes alive in the afternoon so she does her best parenting at pick-up, shuttling kids to activities, dinner, managing chores, and homework. He wants to make a point to share in those responsibilities at times as well so they designate nights where he attends activities or makes (orders) dinner. And when his wife hangs up her cape in the evenings, he does the prep work for the next day. Team work makes the dream work!
What I hope you take from their recommendations is that no matter how different our work or lives are, we all share the same guilt that we are not doing enough. As long as you’re doing the best you can to achieve work-life balance, in the eyes, heart, and mind of your child, you are more than enough!
In my next post, I will share the three point guide to work-life balance for millennials.