Actually, there’s one thing you should know really; work-life balance does not exist. Or at least, not in the way you think; everything balanced out equally as with the grace of a juggler, you give your best at home and fly high in your career all the while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fulfilling social life. That said, if you want to be successful at work and also have well-raised children, here are some things you can do to make sure that you come as close to that picture as you can possibly get:
1. Banish the guilt: If you don’t deal with this, it will deal with you. You may not understand it if you haven’t had a child, but you will when you do. You want to work, but you will also be loathe to leave your child in the care of others while you go to work…and you may be tempted to feel guilty about it. Wanting to work does not make you a bad mother. You are a person, there is dignity in labour and you are adding value when you deliver at work. So forget the guilt; it won’t help your kids, and it will do you absolutely no good.
Tip: Be available to your children as much as possible; make sure they have access to you on the phone. Whatever little time you have with them, make it really count.
2. Don’t worry too much: As we already established, there is truly no balance, so stop agonizing about whether you’re “balancing” life and work optimally. You’ll tear out all your hair for nothing.
Tip: When you are at work, be at work. When you are at home, be at home. Enough said.
3. You must have help at home: It doesn’t matter whether they are family or hired hands. You simply must have help. You cannot excel at work and have outstanding kids if you’re bent on doing everything yourself. Even the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 had help, so forget about trying to do it all. If you do find a good house help, keep her.
Tip: Even if you have a helpful partner, still outsource whatever you can, and save your energy for what must be done by you.
4. Work for a mother-friendly company: I squealed like a little girl when I walked into one of the top management consulting firms in Lagos and saw they had a nursery. Granted, not all companies can do that, but there are many ways a company can support working mothers. If you can, find one that does.
Tip: Talk to mothers in the company and find out what kind of support they got.
5. Be realistic: Some successful women believe that you can have it all, just not at the same time. If you have to work part time for a while, or work from home for a period, or take a less stressful job for a season, do so. If a job you want requires a lot of travelling and you have little ones, you may want to consider letting it go. Be realistic about what kind of job you can handle.
Tip: Seek the objective opinion of a partner, parent or friend who knows you well when you have to make a decision about taking a job.
6. Live as close to your office as possible: This is especially true if you live in a big city. Spending hours on the road to and fro every day will sap your energy and consume your time. It’s not worth it. Don’t try to argue this. It’s not.
Tip: Work close to where you live or move closer to where you work.
7. Something’s gotta give: If you’re going to be great at work, and be great at mothering, and keep your marriage alive and thriving, then you must understand that you’ll have to give up some things. It may be reading, or a hobby, but most mothers will tell you it’s the social life that goes. Ah, well. C’est la vie.
Tip: Take a deep breath and accept it. Be grateful for what you do have.
About the writer: Joy Ehonwa is a writer, editor and online proofreader who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a copy-editing, ghostwriting and transcription business, blogs at www.anafricandiva.wordpress.com and www.girlaware.wordpress.com and tweets @JoyEhonwa