How Do You Do It? Uncovering Your Work-Life Balance

Today I found myself answering the “how do you do it” question again. A colleague found out I have 4 young kids at home and couldn’t fathom that I work full-time and manage to have a happy family life. It got me thinking – I answer this question a lot – at least 3-4 times a week – at work, at the grocery store, at the dentist – you name it. People really want to know the magic trick to balancing work with life and I can understand why.

Let’s face it – it ain’t easy to juggle a full-time career with a family. Most days my role feels like a mix between the ringleader of a three  four ring circus and a shepherd of a large flock of sheep. It was out of necessity that I developed a tactic to manage the chaos around me. 

I believe that work-life balance is not something that can be bestowed upon you by your employer – it is something we need to define for ourselves because it is different for everyone. It took me years to strike the right balance and I’m still working on it.

So how doI respond to the elusive question of how do I do it?  I smile and answer the same way I always do. The secret for me lies in the following equation:

1 supportive partner + 1 flexible work schedule = My Definition of Sanity

Part 1: Supportive Partner

I talked a little bit about this in an older post called Partnering for Success and Sheryl Sandberg touched on this in her recent interview with Business Insider. Bottom line – in a partnership, we need to consider that both careers are equally important and thus split the “family work” 50/50. This “sharing of tasks” is critical to success in our family – one of us drops kids off in the morning, one of us picks up in the afternoon. One of us does the dentist appointments and one handles the doctors. One of us does swim lessons while the other handles basketball. You get the picture. It is our shared commitment to both our family and our individual careers that gets us through. It is different for every family but this model works for us.

Part 2: Flexible Schedule

The ability to work remotely at times, to finish up work in the evening some days, to be able to spend an afternoon at my child’s party – is a true privilege. I feel extremely fortunate that my role that allows me to manage my own schedule. It makes me feel like I can still be there for my kids – in the mornings and the evenings. I realize that this is not possible in all professions so we’ve got to find a way to “turn off” the work day when we are with our families.

The Answer: My sanity

My definition of sanity is not for everyone. I live my life in a constant sea of chaos and change – I thrive in this environment. My life isn’t perfect and there are days where I ask myself “am I doing this right?” Usually I answer by saying “I don’t know but I’m doing my best.” I try to make a conscious effort to be the best mom when I’m with my kids and be the best employee when I’m at work. At the end of the day, that is all we can really do. I also try to live a guilt-free existence.

Regardless of how you define your own sanity, the key is identifying the balance (or equation) that works for you. If we are confident and comfortable with our choices it shines through…in your career and in your smiling kids. And once you uncover it, prepare yourself – you may find yourself answering that age old question – how do you do it?

I’d love to hear your ideas on managing work-life – please comment.

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  • 1
    February 1, 2012 - 2:02 pm | Permalink

    As your former co-worker, back in the days when you were only managing a one ring circus, I often wondered how you did it then! My hat is off to you for doing the same with four! Our lives are slightly different – ok, very different in terms of stresses and what we need to balance, but I swear by having that “me” time, even if it is at 4:45 in the morning and it includes the treadmill, or leaving my BlackBerry in the car when I go to get my nails done for an hour. Being able to segregate work-time and me-time helps me get some perspective. Keep on doing what you’re doing – I want to be you when I grow up!

    • 2
      February 1, 2012 - 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much Beth! I am humbled by your comment!

      You are so right – its those little steps that help. Your BlackBerry example is good one. Regardless of whether you have kids or not we still need down time – it makes us more productive in the end.

      And don’t forget – you are fantastic just the way you are.

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