Having It All: A Woman’s Guide to Work-Life Balance

Having It All: A Woman’s Guide to Work-Life Balance

For some women, the way we work isn’t quite working. In reality ‘having it all,’ as we have come to know it, is utterly exhausting. We have prided ourselves in our capacity to do it all – raise a family, build a thriving career, maintain relationships, and stay on top of everything. The reality is that something always gets sacrificed. It’s neither work nor the children, but rather our energy that takes the brunt. For most of us, ‘having it all’ isn’t a philosophical debate because the majority of women who choose to have a family, most certainly want to or need to work at the same time. We should be asking another question entirely: how can we possibly do it differently?

It’s not necessarily the combination of work commitments and family responsibilities that depletes us; it may be lack of flexibility in our work environment, the huge work load and a myriad of other issues. But mostly it’s the self-imposed, unrealistic standards that we set for ourselves that get in the way of achieving peace of mind. Most of us do a great job at work and are devoted mothers at the same time. What takes a real beating in doing it all is our own mental and physical wellbeing.

Here are five super helpful tips to stay on top of it all:

  1. Forget about balance.
    The reason we feel so frustrated most of the time is because the balance we’re pursuing just doesn’t exist. So long as we’re chasing an unattainable goal, there’s no hope of getting close. What does work-life balance even mean? That work and life outside of work each have equal measure? There’s almost always more work than family time or me-time. Most of life is filled with hard work. The prudence is in being super-disciplined in establishing strong and effective lifestyle strategies and sufficient recovery time. Think more of a fluid dynamic equilibrium than static solid balance.
  2. There’s no awards for superhuman.
    Working hard is essential; however, the need to persistently prove yourself and go beyond the call of duty is not. These common characteristics of executive women are the classic causes of many burnouts and breakdowns. When you leave work, leave work! Although it’s easier said than done, know when to stop. Your time outside of the office should be spent on you and the people you care about. And don’t hesitate to ask for help!
  3. Be bold, dig deep.
    “Put your hand up and be bold and be courageous. Be prepared to back yourself, be prepared to have a go,” said Gail Kelly, the first female CEO of a major Australian bank. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and author of Lean In: Woman, Work, and the Will to Lead, describes how we often feel a sense of “I'm not good enough, I'm not adequate, I'm not going to do this well. I might fail, what happens if I fail?” As women, our lack of self-belief and the constant ‘self-speak’ of not being good enough is what may obstruct our path and exhaust us.
  4. Recover intermittently.
    Trying to “have it all” can leave us depleted. Not surprisingly, the antidote to fatigue and its impact on performance is rest! Even short breaks can make a huge difference if you know how to make the most of them. Get up from your desk and stretch your muscles. Take deep breaths and go for a brisk walk. Breathing and meditation can help clear your head by defusing stress, strengthening neural connections, and improving the flow of oxygen to the brain.
  5. Recharge the battery.
    When you try to ‘have it all,’ it’s not work nor family that gets sacrificed, but rather it’s your own needs. Structure some time for yourself to defuse your stress and recharge your energy, whether it’s getting regular massages or taking a nap. And although it often seems impossible, with discipline and planning, you can stay well hydrated, get moderate exercise and eat the most nourishing foods. An easy way to get your essential nutrients is to drink a nutritious smoothie that’s packed with whole foods at least once a day. Develop a healthy sleep strategy, as well. For far too long, sleep has not received the attention it deserves. It’s undoubtedly the most powerful restorative tool we have at our disposal.

Glibly repeating, “you can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality. It’s a falsehood to think that it’s simply a function of a woman’s determination. There are still trails to blaze, ceilings to break and gender inequities to correct. But if ‘having it all’ means a little more compromise and a little less perfection, a little more flexibility and a little less rigidity, a little more courage and a little less fear, then yes, it may indeed be possible. Just remember to take care of your own health, too!

Physician, Author, Speaker


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