A constant challenge for women leaders is striking a balance between their professional and personal life – and in this area, traditional gender expectations often still prevail such as wanting women to put their family before their. Some women also feel they would have been more efficient and productive in running their businesses if they didn’t have the responsibilities of motherhood or marriage. This is not necessarily the case and if done right, a so-called “balanced life” could be achieved and will more often than not lead to tremendous leadership success.
Become a more balanced, focused and engaged leader
Generally balance is seen as scaling between work and family – when a person is able to sufficiently meet family commitments and adequately perform responsibilities at work.
In my opinion, there’s one major issue with the term work-life balance. First, the very phrase suggests that work isn’t part of your life, its separate. The majority of our day is spent at work, so if we constantly seek for balance, it becomes elusive and rarely attainable, which means, you already start at a disadvantage.
Second, the work-life balance statement also presupposes that you are merely coping, and most women want to be extremely successful at both.
Ultimately it should be about women being able to set boundaries and become assertive enough to say “no” to areas that don’t affect their lives in a significant way.
There are times when a woman will have to work really hard and for long hours, neglecting their family and personal life. However, there are also times when she can choose to put her foot down and say “no” to work.
It all starts with a belief. Some women believe it’s impossible to be a good mother and have a successful career at the same time. They believe they would either be good at their job, or at motherhood, but not at both.
Contrary to common belief, you can have an extremely successful career and be an outstanding mother – and looking gorgeous at the same time. I for one had three adorable kids with special needs that required me to invest more of my time to provide proper care and attention than other mothers would. I still managed a successful career, founded a company and always made time to look gorgeous.
Nevertheless, we are all different. What you choose as being most important, would be totally dependent on what you value and how you determine the worth of things that matter to you most.
The First step would be to determine and analyse how you truly define success.
There would always be one area that you prioritize more than the other, and the sooner you realize which area that is, you can accept it, consent to it, and make it work by implementing coping means to the other areas you consider of slightly less importance– but still want to greatly succeed at it.
It’s a fact that before you can take care of anyone else you have to take care of yourself first, meaning you need to feel that balance within yourself before attempting to balance duties and obligations.
Once you know achieve this balance with proper planning and awareness in all areas of your life, you can take control and eliminate the constant feelings of guilt and worry. Instead you will feel happier, stronger and more stable, knowing you’re totally competent in harmonising your professional and personal life.
This may seem daunting for some, but many people have managed to achieve this balance successfully, so there shouldn’t be anything holding you back from trying. I too, have struggled to integrate my career and personal life at first, but eventually found the middle ground that was in line with my priorities, values and beliefs.
This is how I did it:
Simply make the decision and commit. Set clear boundaries thereby creating the balance to make it work. If you don’t make the conscious decision to achieve balance and fully commit to it, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. Become more assertive in your communication styles as well.
Realise that in order to achieve success you would have to give up some of your original goals and substitute it with new ones with different but equal challenges and results, there are various ways to skin the cat so to speak, just keep an open mind. Again, redefine your passion and purpose and stick to it.
Make sure your career remains challenging but not overwhelming by learning to say “no” to energy drainers. Most of us don’t like to refuse favours, new responsibilities, or even casual requests, for fear of looking undependable, disappointing, or missing out on certain things. Do not assume responsibility for people’s feelings or emotions, I will be discussing this more thoroughly in an upcoming article.
However, make a point of seriously considering and evaluating any request that comes your way, and double-check your schedule before taking anything else on that’s not in line with your objectives.
Our environments can contribute profoundly to our overall effectiveness. All the surrounding energy either adds to our personal energy pool, or distracts us from it. So, unclutter all areas, keep it organised as it will free up space in your mind to deal with the more significant things in your life.
Always communicate your situation to your family. Regularly discuss with your husband and children their perceptions, opinions, and even objections about your work.
This will give you better insight into their feelings and aspirations, making it easier for you to manage their expectations and perceptions. Also ensure the entire family understands your obligations and responsibilities at work, so there would be more consideration from their end.
Establish limits and clarify boundaries between family and work. Determine which actions are acceptable and which are not. Boundaries protect your work from the personal distractions and protect your family involvement from the obligations at work.
Be very disciplined about it and do not overstep these boundaries as it might lead to distrust and disgruntlement. This is difficult but absolutely worth it, as closing your mind from work, will translate into giving quality time to your family and they’ll love you for it.
Ultimately you would also need to be able to switch work off completely, and give more time to yourself, just as much as you would to family in order to maintain a healthy body and mind.
It would be impossible to perfectly balance everything in your life at all times. For example, when a family member is sick, you may need to skip a work event. Or when an important deadline must be met, you might need to miss dinner at home and stay working in the office late.
Always ensure you have supportive means in place to deal with these occurrences. Ask for help, negotiate fairly for what you need, and learn how to delegate effectively and responsibly.
At the office let superiors, colleagues, and management know what’s important to you, what you value, and how you want your life to be. Tell them what’s high on your priority list so they would know when and how they can provide support. You would be surprised by how supportive colleagues can be.
For total peace of mind at the office ensure you leave your kids in capable hands. Find someone you feel comfortable and confident with. Get involved with these care providers by communicating frequently and observing interactions between the caregiver and your child.
At home get your children involved with household tasks and work together as a team, it can be lots of fun. Recruit friends, family, neighbours as a support network in times when you simply can’t be there for your kids in emergencies or daily activities. Make sure that you return this favour when you have downtime and they need you to.
Understand that anything can change at a moment’s notice, just make sure you’re always ready and willing to assume responsibility for any of the tasks that need to get done at any time. Lose the idea of perfectionism, and forgive yourself when things don’t go according to plan.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach and no single formula for successfully balancing work and family, every person must find specific solutions to their issues depending on their own preferences and needs.
If you need help in finding this balance, contact Hawa Charfaray, CEO: Training Excellence South Africa and Consultant in Dubai (UAE) on firstname.lastname@example.org
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