My daughter is turning 19 this week. In three short months she will start college and from there go on a career path. The realization reminded me of panel discussion I recently attended. As several highly accomplished career women talked about their lives and work, two main themes emerged again and again:
- To get the most out of my career, I am not cutting myself much slack and this is how I pave the path for my daughters to reach the career goals they want.
- It is so very very hard!
As I was listening to the stories from the tranches, I couldn’t help but ask myself. If this is so difficult for you, why would you prime your daughters for similar hardship?! Our kids are perceptive. They feel the vibe of accomplishment-driven moms and they also absorb the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) expectation to follow a similar path.
In working with female entrepreneurs and organizations, I am yet to meet the elusive creature called “a woman with life-work balance.” I also don’t meet many women that lack accomplishments, but I do get to talk to women who undervalue what they have created and therefore strive to reach ever higher goals, paying a personal price in the process.
Somehow it is clear to us that we can’t hold down two full-time jobs (or even one full-time and one part-time job). If for whatever reason we were to decide to undertake such a load, it is very obvious to us that everyone would pay a price. Yet somehow for many of us working moms the constant sacrifices we make come as a surprise and a source of frustration.
Working moms complain about being put on “mommy track” and being passed over for promotion, but also about getting side-long glances when they need to leave early or stay home for kids’ sick days. And moms complain the most about the feeling of being torn. About not knowing what to choose. About overwhelm.
Are there supermoms that do it all with perfect poise and smile? Yes. Yet
fast forward career track + involved mom + sanity
is not a prescription for success for the great majority of women. Somewhere on the road to catching the first two, we seem to let go of the third. We are stressed and anxious. We drop balls. And we beat ourselves up for it.
I doubt many women want their girls to experience the same turmoil. It’s up to us to create better lifestyles and pass them down. If we want our daughters to lead accomplished but also balanced lives, we need to start modeling balance ourselves.
The most important person in reclaiming balance is you. As anyone who has ever tried doing balancing exercises knows, maintaining inner strength and looking at one spot keeps you from falling over.
The “balance” in” life-work balance” is not a noun; it’s a verb. It means actively balancing the different parts of our lives, giving more attention and higher priority to different needs at different times. That axiomatically means that other things will take the back seat for a while. (For more on that read Gary Keller’s, The One Thing). In the big scheme of things relationships, family, and health can’t stay on the back burner for too long. Paying inadequate attention to these creates long-term problems that will come back to haunt us.
This balancing act means we need to actively consider priorities, make decisions, and then translate these decisions into everyday actions. It requires us to have a clear vision of our goals and the backbone to do the things that we decided are important. For me personally that meant saying no to several managerial/partner offers, turning down afternoon speaking opportunities, skipping professional networking events, and turning off my cellphone between 4 and 8 PM. And also feeling good about it.
The balancing act is tiring. From time to time we need to recharge our batteries. We need to spend time with ourselves. We need to draw strength from other women who face similar challenges. We need tools for solving some of our most common difficulties.
That’s what you will get if you join the B-lance Retreat for English speaking working moms in Netanya on June 23-24. It’s a gift of rejuvenation that will keep you going for months to come. With a clearer mind, new friends, and new practical lifestyle tools, you’ll have more strength to balance your life.
You need to do it for yourself and you need to do it if you have daughters. Our girls need to learn by example not only to strive for accomplishments, not only to juggle multiple projects, but above all to take good care of themselves. That’s the most important ingredient of their future success.