As I prepared for the birth of my first child in 2010, I had big plans for being a work-at-home mom. I started a business in 2009 and had a grand vision of caring for my daughter full-time while also working full-time. Within three months of her birth, I faced the humbling truth that despite my determination to do it all, I could not. I have spent much of the nearly four years since learning to find balance between my career and my family because although I cannot do it all, I greatly value both facets of my life. The following five practices have helped me achieve the level of career/family balance that is right for me and my family.
1. Learn to recognize your limits and how to be a rock star within those limits.
I do have friends who seem to be doing it all, but I have learned that I simply cannot. Being realistic about what you can and cannot do will enable you to meet your commitments, shine in the areas in which you excel, and will help you find the balance that is right for you, your career, and your family.
Who says success has to be earning X thousands of dollars per year with the corner office and senior job title? For some, when that dream becomes reality, they realize that they don’t actually want it. Rather than trying to hold yourself to the ideals of others, decide what is important to you and set realistic goals that will move you toward achieving those aims.
Accept that balance is not fixed.
There will be times when career requires more of your attention and others when your family does. Learning to shift between the two and giving yourself the grace to not have to do it all is where true balance is achieved. Also, certain phases of life (e.g., adding a child to the family, going back to school) often upset the balance we have created. Fortunately, these times are temporary. You will have to adjust how you balance career and family during these times but after a set amount of time, the added chaos will pass.
Learn to say, “Not now but [when].”
This is the happy medium between saying “yes” and overcommitting yourself and saying “no” to an opportunity that you don’t necessary want to pass up. This includes career, family, and other aspects of life that are also important, such as time with friends, accepting a position on a board, or running that marathon you’ve been determined to complete since you were 25. Rather than saying “yes” or “no,” practice saying, “I’m really interested in joining the board but am fully committed for the remainder of this calendar year. Please add me to your list of potential board members for 2015.” Or, if you are able to make a small commitment, offer that as a start.
Talk to others about how they balance career and family.
I love meeting with other entrepreneurs to learn how they manage a certain aspect of their business or life. There are multiple ways to structure a business, complete a task, or balance work and family. Talking to others brings forth new ideas that might just be the solution you need!
As I approach the birth of my second child – a son due next month – I feel more confident that I can have the perfect career/family balance. By being honest with yourself and others about your limits, communicating openly, and planning, you absolutely can enjoy both a thriving career and a well-bonded family.
Libby Krause founded Brevity in 2009 to help fast-growing businesses build the key business structures necessary for long-term success. As Brevity’s Principal Consultant, Libby designs solutions that move company objectives from vision to reality and standardize sales and operations practices and documentation. She lives with her husband and two children in Smyrna, Tennessee.