Taking Account of Work/Life Balance: A true story

“How do you balance it all?” I was asked after delivering a personal
brand workshop to a group of professional women. “Hmmmm”,
I said. “I’m a bit confused by the expectation that there’s ever true
balance”, I explained. Truth is, as a once proud card-carrying
member of a population of women chasing perfect equilibrium, I
now practice a better way.

In general life is a sum of many accounts we open over time. We
may have a ‘significant other’ account, a work account, a child(ren)
account, a friend account, a daughter account and so on. You get the
picture. At any given time, we make deposits and withdrawals from
each of these accounts. There are days when I’m a better mom than
business woman (+ mommy account and – Chief Strategist account).
Other days, I’m a better friend than daughter (+ friend account and –
daughter account). So my goal is to be so present and to provide
above and beyond expectations in the area where I’m depositing,
which will hopefully offset the later unavoidable withdrawal.

I’m often reminded of when I went back to work after my first son,
Christopher, was born. I was working at Reebok International and
Chris was in the daycare right on the campus. He’d been at the
daycare for about 2 years when “it” happened. After having been
bitten before (on the cheek by another child) he became “the biter”.
OH NO! I thought. How have I failed my child? I haven’t been there
for him. What kind of mother works these hours? A mother whose
son becomes a biter because of the lack of attention. That’s who!
Oh, I went for it. It was one of the most beautiful displays of self-
deprecation, I’ve ever experienced. Those who do it often (of which
I am not one) would have been proud.

What now? Yes, I’ll call my mother. I explained to her how
unfortunate it was that she raised a daughter who was just not cut
out for being mother because now my child was a biter (dramatics
in play to prove a point, but stick with me). I told her how awesome
she was for choosing the profession of being a teacher because she
was there for us after school and during summers and available to
guide us through life’s tougher moments. Well, she listened intently.

Then, she asked me to recount my childhood. I told her that I
remembered lots of laughs, playing hide and seek in the house, going
to the beach in Pensacola with my grandparents and cousins, playing
outside with all of my neighborhood friends, playing sports and a host
of other great memories. “Wow,” I said. “What a great childhood I
had”. Afterwards she said you mean you don’t remember the many
times you were with a babysitter because I was working 3 jobs to
keep you and your sister in private school or many of the late nights I
wasn’t home because I was going to school to get my Master’s degree,
or the summers I sent you to my mother’s because I needed to work
for the summer to earn extra money for school and living expenses?

“Ummmm, no not really”, I said. My mother went on to tell me
about how motherhood and every other category in our lives is about
quality, not quantity. She explained that if you’re going to be the kind
of person who enjoys a variety of all that life has to offer, then you’ve
got to find a way to make it all work, in a way that doesn’t make it
all fall apart. My mother, unbeknownst to me growing up, is one such
person. The quality of the time she spent with me was so rich that I
lived off of it in the times she was gone. Ultimately, she made enough
deposits into my life that she was afforded enough withdrawals to
keep the balance positive.

Here are a few tips to living in the balance:

  1. Commit to wherever you are when you’re there.
    Make a great deposit.
  2. Be discerning about your withdrawals and deposits.
    Make them count.
  3. Let the people (outside of work) know your system.
    It will give them greater understanding.
  4. Give yourself permission to make withdrawals. You’ll
    need them to make it all balance out.
  5. And lastly, walk away from the myth that you should
    be able to give equally to every area of your life all at once.
    The faster you let go of the myth, the faster you can get
    on with the business of enjoying All of life’s precious
    moments – Minus the guilt
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