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How do I manage my work-life balance? I get asked this question in almost every mentorship meeting, in forums discussing women in the workforce and in most social gathering.
An assumption people make is that I have figured out the right balance! Honestly, I feel like I am trying to make that balance every single day. Not only have I not figured out the balance, I am no where in the vicinity of the right balance :) I am okay with that though, I now have over 20 years of experience trying to find that balance everyday.
Firstly, know that the balance will need to be tweaked everyday. Much like our large financial servers you need to take the time for maintenance, ensure you are ready for the week and the days to come. More so as we've lived in India since the environment around me is not as predictable as it was in the US. My family and I have to constantly juggle the various activities in our lives. Planning ahead does help and bring predictability where possible. Although more than planning, communication is key.
My son's music instructor although reasonably good keeps having to reschedule his time. That just doesn't work for us, he has to go. We are looking for a new instructor as we speak. Nothing personal there, some activities can simply not be flexible, like this is one. On a positive note, my son decided to use this opportunity to start another instrument (drums! thankfully quiet drumming pads exist :)
Secondly, I don't build on my guilt. Just let it slide, like water off a duck's back. I've learnt to manage my guilt. There are some events that I will simply not miss, crystal moments as they call it and the rest, I've learnt to be okay missing. I know when my loved ones need me the most, I maximise on those moments. My mom, my biggest fan and yet my biggest critic was just telling me yesterday that my son has a lot of time and affection for our housekeeper. He shares a lot with her, my mom says. Of course I would much rather it is me but like I said water off a duck's back. Now, if he is hurt, needs help with something that's where I come in. I've made my peace so that's that!
Thirdly, I am constantly recruiting help. By that I don't mean maids but simply that, help. My biggest resource is in fact my family - my kids and my husband. My kids know that they need to communicate ahead and ask for what they may need. Now they are children (even my husband) so not everything can be planned ahead, we deal when those situations arise. My daughter simply texts when she needs to inform me of something. When she needs to talk, she calls me starts her conversations with "Mom, I need to talk..." doesn't matter what I am doing, hers becomes the most important conversation I need to have. Other times it is "Mom, do you have a few minutes...". I step out of any meeting I am in, hear her out and decide if I should take 5 or deal with later in the day. See it also becomes important your coworkers know your family, they can help support you better.
I was in a client meeting when the phone rang, it was my daughter. I didn't whisper into the phone, I announced it was my daughter and I needed a minute to see what was up. Contradictory to conventional wisdom, your clients or coworkers will not think any less of you for taking a call. If anything they understand you better. For the longest time I felt I had to tip-toe around who I was, it was exhausting! I am so free now, I share openly that while I am crazy passionate about my job, my #1 priority is my family. A wonderful man and an ex-CEO of mine said, you need to bring your whole self to work and create environments where everyone can bring their whole self. For me that was really freeing.
I am a mom, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend and entrepreneur. I am a product person by training and a social worker by choice. Everyday, sometimes every few minutes I am making tradeoffs between the roles I am playing. It is exhausting but I can honestly say, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Seems like a lot of work doesn't it? My attitude is to say, hell yeah, it is hard so I make my job worth it! Worth all the juggling roles, all the moments missed while ensuring I live my life to the fullest and enjoy it by being there for the people I love. Work is a big part of who I am and where I spend my time. The only way I know to be truly satisfied with the work-life balance I need is to ensure that I love what I do.