The key to more effective work-life balance is to understand the “spheres” in your life and the dynamic that drives each one. Every woman has a different set of spheres that she would like to juggle more effectively (e.g. marriage, children, career, community). The exact idea of work-life balance evolves over time with each of us. As we get older, our priorities change and lead to various permutations of combining work and family— from working part-time or full-time, to telecommuting and adopting flextime options. Our concept of work-life balance also depends on how we see our roles as parents. It’s very easy to reduce the concept of motherhood into the usual traditional roles, as well as to downplay the emotional dimensions of being a parent for career moms. Most moms will tell you that they like being with their kids and enjoy being a parent— but the sentiment should come with nuanced qualifiers.
Being a busy mom is a double-edged sword. The intersection of gender, work, and identity in society can make the tug-of-war between the workplace and home an intense one for many women— including myself. Working moms often feel torn compared to working dads when it comes to their families. While fathers feel the pressure to provide for their children financially, moms are expected to allocate time for their kids.
The first and most important step in developing a successful work-life balance plan is your mindset. A healthy positive attitude, visualization of success and inner empowerment lays a sturdy foundation for the rest of the plan I will outline for you. Your mind is now ready, let’s make this happen:
Step 1: Figure Out What You Want:
Begin by developing a game plan in which you take into account the following things:
- Your mission, purpose, and passion.
- Your personal values.
- Your signature strengths.
- The dreams and goals you have for your life.
Step 2: Define Your Goals
1. Define your parenting goals:
- What approach to baby or child care feels best for you? (Are you someone who likes to get the kids on a regular schedule? Are you comfortable having your children supervised or watched by others or would you rather be directly involved?)
- What kind of home atmosphere do you want to cultivate? (Nuclear and focused? Open to extended family and friends? Lively or serene?)
- What kinds of activities with the children are important to you? (Do you require quiet activities with the children – reading books, playing board games, and family discussions? Are you more focused on outdoor activities – walking, hiking, playing in the park, working in the yard?)
2. Determine your work and career goals:
- What are your employer’s work-life balance policies? Is the environment supportive? Are policies in place that are supportive of working parents?
- How do you see your current job or career? Are you happy with your current employer? Are your skills being appreciated and esteemed?
- What do you value by working? (e.g. financial security, higher standard of living, development of skills and abilities, intellectual challenges, contribution to community and society, to be a role model for your children, or self-exploration?)
- Are you thinking about switching to an alternative work structure? If so, make sure you consider the following:
Outline your suggested schedule (e.g. working 4 days a week) and review it with your employer. How will you handle unexpected house needs and high demand peak working periods? How will you handle the need to attend meetings and meet with colleagues or staff? Outline specific areas of responsibility— what functions are you taking on and what are you letting go?
3. Determine the goals for your marriage and personal relationships:
- How active a social life do you want? (Will it conflict with family activities? Will you have to scale down your activities?)
- How do you see your marriage or relationship adjusting to family life? (Will you need scheduled time with your partner or are you happy including the children in all your activities?)
- What activities with your spouse or partner are important?
4. Define how your home life will be managed?
- What chores do you prefer? What would you prefer to offload to your partner or to household help?
- What are the household expenses and who is responsible for budgeting?
- How do you combine your incomes at home?
5. What values are important to you?
- Religion and spirituality?
- Fun and humor?
- Discipline and organized?
- Laid-back or active?
6. Find your intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation is a drive that originates from within oneself. What drives you to achieve your goals in your life? Intrinsic motivation sustains an activity for its own sake. You engage in that task because you enjoy it, you are interested in it, and it arouses your curiosity.
Step 3: Carpe Diem!
Now that you have your values and goals clearly in mind, the next step is to prioritize these areas of your life. For me, as well as most mothers out there, the center of my universe is my children and husband. My schedule as a working professional revolves around their needs. To make that happen, I list everything that needs to be done within a week. I put them down on paper and brainstorm a running list with my husband. We decide together what’s important.
Focus on what you want, plan how to get there, and then follow the path you’ve outlined. Instead of waiting around for luck to deliver opportunities to your doorstep, you can continue to move your life in the direction you want by creating your own opportunities. Your life is in your hands.
About the Author
Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is President of the South Florida Branch of AMWA, an AMWA mentor, a member of the Membership and Marketing Committee and a member of the Global Outreach Committee. Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a wife, mother of four, community leader and is a nationally recognized speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book,Harmony of the Spheres: Career, Family and Community, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. She is President of the South Florida Branch of AMWA and runs her hybrid private Internal Medicine practice offering office visits, housecalls or telemedicine to her patients. In addition, she runs the websites BusyMomMD, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career, family and community life, and HouseCallsMD, providing a portal to better healthcare. She also offers both personal and group consulting for professionals striving to achieve work-life balance. For more information email Dr. Haffizulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.