We’ve all heard the phrase before.
Whether you are a full-time or part-time businesswoman, you may have often struggled with what this phrase means to you as a new or seasoned mom.
I always thought that work and motherhood should be separate, that the two should never overlap. But what if this type of thinking is flawed? What if happiness didn’t come from balancing the two on opposite sides of the spectrum, never letting them collide?
What I learned about myself through two maternity leaves is that to be the best mom I can be, I need to work. I not only love what I do, I enjoy the creative culture and the people at my office. My 9-to-5 allows for me to exercise my creativity all while making an impact on our community and in our clients’ lives.
I also learned, however, that I need family time, morning snuggles and conversations over Cheerios. I can’t go without finding shapes in the clouds and Peter Pan on repeat (I really wish my three-year-old would have taken an obsession to something else. At least it’s a classic).
I knew I needed both work and motherhood, which led to figuring out how to juggle the two. From turning off my phone at home and setting a rule of not checking email to adjusting my work schedule to accommodate more family time, I experimented with how to get the most out of both. Life is messy and isn’t compartmentalized though. Babies get sick during conference calls and sometimes an “Aha!” work moment happens at 9:00 pm over a glass (or two) of wine.
A podcast I listened to recently confirmed these thoughts and put into words what I was feeling: torn. Do I stay late at work to meet a deadline or head home to get a home-cooked meal on the table? Should I say yes to an important client presentation or attend my daughter’s class party? Do I lead my team of designers or lead my pack of wild animals (a.k.a. toddlers). I was consistently torn.
Torn between work and my family, always deciding what comes first.
One of the key points made in the podcast is,
“When people say they want work-life balance, what they’re really saying is that they want to experience happiness in how they’re spending their time.”
If your best self means having a career and a family, then maybe it’s not about finding time for one or the other. What if the solution is making yourself whole by having your life reflect the fact that you are a career-centered businesswoman AND a mom? It’s no longer about work-life balance, but work-life INTEGRATION.
Woah. What a different way of looking at it.
Life doesn’t stop when you’re at work, and vice versa. So why not make decisions with that in mind? What if we didn’t hide from our bosses that our germ-infested kiddos frequent the doctor’s office more than the doctor himself? And what if kids saw mom in action once in a while, making important decisions and demonstrating leadership skills?
So I got rid of the old way of thinking – deciding between the two. Now my goal is replace “or” with “and.” How I can stay late at work AND have a home-cooked meal for my family (crockpot!)? Can I attend the client presentation AND my daughter’s class party (I add personal events to our shared work calendar so my team knows my mom priorities and schedules around them)? How can I lead a team of designers AND my kids (a daily struggle y’all, but it involves a lot of planning and prepping)?
It’s no longer about work-life balance, but work-life INTEGRATION.
Think about small changes you can make today that would integrate your career with your family life and bring more happiness and peace. What are your non-negotiables? Not missing field trips? Picking your kids up from school? Being a project leader and resource for a team? Whatever they are, write them down and make daily decisions that reflect them. And don’t just write your priorities down, share them. How will your boss know you have a family if you never tell them? Does your child know where you go every day when you drop them off at school and why? Share your life with the people in your life.