Quick tell me; what do the Loch Ness Monster, BigFoot and the Balanced Working Mom have in common? Yes, they are all mythical creatures! If there is balance to be had between career and parenting, the only evidence I’ve seen of it is in grainy photos from afar that you are sure are doctored. No reliable first hand evidence of work-life balance has ever crossed my path.
Despite my apparent cynicism, I’m all for working moms, whether out of necessity or desire. I’m a working mom myself. I simply have never found that elusive balance that allows one to thoroughly enjoy both career and work simultaneously, while also succeeding in both arenas. For while I thought it was me. There was something I was missing, or some fault in my scheduling or work ethic that meant I couldn’t find my balance. More and more lately I’m beginning to realize that the fault isn’t mine – how can you find something that doesn’t exist!
In my 6 1/2 years of motherhood I have been a stay at home mom, an employee working out of the house, a self-employed work at home mom and an entrepreneur. Each of these opportunities were/are highly flexible and very child friendly and yet I still wasn’t able to find a good balance between my career and family. I had periods that were very career focussed where I achieved great success, but felt my relationships at home suffering. The pendulum has swung the other way and I’ve spent intensive family time strengthening my bond with my husband and children at the expense of my career. I can assure you the pendulum has never swung in the direction of having a clean and tidy home on a regular basis.
The one takeaway I’ve had from all of these experiences is not to burn out chasing that elusive balance, but instead plan for and build in those pendulum swings. Is there an upcoming time that will be very work focussed? How can you plan for your family in that absence. Maybe your partner is able to be family focussed during that time. Maybe you have good friends and family or an excellent childcare situation that will let you rest at ease knowing your children are happy and that the pendulum will always swing back the other way. Vice versa, how can you build up your career for family intensive periods? Do you have a business partner or collaborator that can help out, or a colleague who can job share while you take some family time?
Most importantly, don’t get sucked into the lie that you can do it all. Photoshopping isn’t just for models!