By Candy Jenkins
Whether you’re a mum who is working full-time or part-time, studying or staying at home (or any other combination) we can all agree that our children come first and, above all, we want them to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted. But we also want to ‘lean in’ to our careers, contribute something back to society and experience professional fulfilment.
This is where the illusive “work-life balance” comes up again and again, and we question whether it’s really achievable. As a mum who has had a varied career in the corporate sector, and now higher education, I’ve been a stay-at-home mum, I’ve worked full-time, and now I work part-time in a job that I love, whilst keeping the family running smoothly (or roughly, I’ll admit!). I can reveal that work-life balance is achievable… for very brief periods… and then it all goes back to sh**.
“I don’t know how she does it”. “Oh, she must have a full-time nanny”. “I bet her kids barely see her”. “Oh, she’s leaving early again for her sick child”. No matter how much effort we put in, sometimes it feels like we just can’t win. In the words of Mia Freedman in her book, Work Strife Balance: ‘Balance is bulls***!’ (BTW, I never swore before having kids).
We can only do the best we can in the allotted time we’ve been given, and sometimes it does feel like everything’s falling apart, and other times you feel like putting on your cape and tights for your efforts. So, with Mother’s Day approaching, here are my top three tips for achieving work-life balance.
Let go of the guilt
Guilt is a wasted emotion and nothing is achieved from it except negatively impacting your own wellbeing. Whether you are feeling guilty about having to leave work early for a school meeting or feeling guilty for missing another Easter hat parade, the fact is that feeling guilty helps no one. I‘ve had to miss important meetings at work in order to see my daughter’s first award ceremony, just as I’ve had to miss my son’s school performance in order to deliver an important presentation at work. Make the decision with your gut, what feels right in that situation, be confident in your choices and move on. Leave the guilt behind.
Perfectionism is your enemy
I’m not saying that you should get sloppy with your work or studies, or let your standards slide, but sometimes you have to accept that good is good enough. Buy that packet of Woolworths cupcakes for the cake stall instead of making them from scratch (I’ve never done this of course… *ahem*). Leave that pivot table off your presentation because it’s taking hours to get it right. In most cases, only you know what perfection looks like so choosing to make it good enough allows you more time in your day to take on other tasks.
Focus on the positives
It’s easy to feel bogged down with everything that’s difficult in your life: not enough time, not enough money, not enough help, not enough sleep! But think about all the positive things that you are achieving. Give yourself credit for what you are able to achieve every day and the new skills you have developed – you’ve become an incredible multi-tasker, you work well under pressure, you are able to plough through piles of work in half the time of others. To coin a phrase: if you want something done, give it to a busy mum! With many companies now introducing Returner Programs, aimed at highly-skilled women returning to work after a career break, the job market is recognising these amazing skills too.
So, on Mother’s Day this Sunday, put your feet up, accept those adorable handmade gifts and celebrate being an awesome mum. Tomorrow might just be the day you achieve your work-life balance… for a brief moment.
Candy Jenkins is the Postgraduate Career Coach at UTS Careers, where she helps students through one-to-one career consultations and group workshops on career development and employability. She is passionate about helping students to understand their unique value proposition, land their dream job, and achieve their career goals.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash