ACHIEVING WORK-FAMILY BALANCE
Scottie Davis Winslow is VP of Optum Consulting. In a recent newspaper column she wondered how best to achieve that balance between the demands of the workplace and the obligations of everyday life outside the workplace. Those obligations could be as simple as grocery shopping and picking up the cleaning, or more involved like finding time to be with spouse or children and caring for elderly parents. No matter what the obligation, when work interferes with everyday life you can suffer significant stress. How should you handle it? Some of Winslow’s suggestions:
Identify your goals and values and make sure family, friends, and anyone depending on you understand where you’re coming from.
Communicate to others the various parts of your life, your priorities, and seek others’ help in achieving them to everyone’s satisfaction. For instance, if your kids understand and accept that you are not available for them all the time, they are likely to be more willing to work with you to find that quality time with them on a regular basis.
Do not get into the perpetual “apology” mode. Does it seem sometimes like you’re constantly guilty and frequently saying, “I’m sorry”? Do you get in the mindset that the things you do for others must always take precedence over what you need to do for yourself now and then? Let’s face it, sometimes effective coping requires you to be a little selfish and tend to yourself. Don’t be afraid to include yourself in your priorities. Ignoring your physical and mental well-being to serve others will self-destruct in the long run.
You should regularly monitor and adjust your daily priorities to meet unexpected situations. Plans go awry; circumstances change; new priorities insert themselves into your daily routine. That’s life, right? Your task is to adjust, adapt, and let your coping efforts evolve to meet the changing requirements in your daily life. Once again, changes must be communicated to others.
Winslow offers some useful and proactive suggestions, and we regularly touch on them in this blog. Woman or man, husband or wife, these suggestions can greatly improve one’s coping skills. And let’s not forget an additional piece of reassurance specifically for working moms. Did you know that women who work are often better off psychologically and physically than women who don’t? Now don’t take that statement as criticism of stay-at-home moms. Many such moms are perfectly happy, and some working moms are miserable.
The point is that society often depicts the working mom as always in a pressure-cooker environment that renders her just too tired at the end of the day to devote quality time to her family and other domestic issues. This is an unfair characterization that just puts needless pressure and guilt on many women when they run across it. If you’re a working mom don’t buy into it, and remember those comments by Winslow.
There are some interesting research findings in this area. As we already noted, working moms are usually found to be psychologically and physically healthy. Compared to non-working women, working women show lower cholesterol levels; have a lower incidence of general illness; are less depressed; and maintain that their job gives them an outlet for the stresses of home and childrearing.
Our point here is not to suggest to stay-at-home moms that you better get out there in the workplace so you can be healthier! The point is, if moms are doing what makes them comfortable and satisfied, they’re going to be fine. So to all you working moms out there, you have no need to fear playing multiple roles. With appropriate planning, organization, and flexibility, you can cope quite well. Comfort level is the key. In fact, heading home on Friday for a weekend with the kids after a particularly tough week might be very pleasant and invigorating. By the same token, heading to work on Monday after a weekend of dealing with diapers, tantrums, and crying might be equally pleasant and invigorating!