As a working mother I often feel like I am trying to juggle five plates, but I can only keep four plates up in the air, so one is always crashing down. But the one falling is not always the same one. So one month I will get enough exercise but find that I am neglecting something at work, then the next month I'll achieve a work goal but leave my spouse feeling dumped on, and another time my spouse and I will get some quality time but feel guilty because our kids are yet again with a babysitter.
Work-Life Balance and Words of Wisdom from Mentors
I try to put the kids first most of the time, but I also try to remember some wisdom I received from a mentor early in my career as a mom. She suggested that I think about the kids being in childcare as sharing my children with the universe. When I see the loving relationship between my two year old and his daycare provider, and how much she enjoys her time with him, I feel good that we can share the joy of his two-year-old self with this warm and caring person.
Look to your mentors for sage advice and reassuring perspectives on work-life balance issues.
The Irony and Humor of Work-Life Balance
One of my favorite stories about work-life balance is the story of a physician who worked in public health. She was investigating an outbreak of food poisoning, and purchased some fast food to test to see if it was the source of the outbreak. Then she got a call from her kids' school, saying the school was closing early and she needed to go pick them up. She stopped to do an errand on the way home, leaving the kids in the car for a few minutes. When she got back to the car, she was dismayed to see her kids happily enjoying the test food. Since her kids did not get sick, she was able to rule it out as the source of the outbreak!
This story makes me laugh, reminds me that the difficulty with balance is a universal problem for working moms, and makes me thankful that it was not MY kids eating the test food! Although there are rare days when the plates magically all stay up in the air, I think coping with the demands of work and family is made easier by the following:
- Expect that things will not always balance.
- Do your best to maintain a sense of humor.
- Knowing that this time will pass all too quickly, remember to count your blessings!
On especially stressful days, my children and I make a game of counting our blessings together, usually in the car on the way to school or a class to which we are running late. My kids help me enumerate the things for which we are thankful: A car that gets us where we want to go, the trees bursting with spring flowers, good food to eat, work that I enjoy, a great kindergarten teacher, a loving family.... This exercise does not change the external reality of our overcommitted lives, but it does give us mental balance by providing much needed perspective, and changing the mood of our time together from stressful to fun and appreciative.
- The Top 10 Tips for Balancing Work and Family Life
- A Balanced Life: Can you really have it all?
- Survey results for overall career/life balance satisfaction of women in medicine.
- Books on Balancing a Career, Motherhood and Family
About the author, Rena Seltzer, ACSW
Other articles by Rena Seltzer, ACSW
- A Mother's Day Gift for Yourself