Blogs, newspapers, magazines and television talk shows are full of people telling women whether or not they can have it all. The debates about whether women can have successful careers, well-adjusted children and happy marriages are almost constant. There is no shortage of opinions on both sides of the issue. My experience has shown that you can have it all when you create your own definition of what it all is. When it comes to balancing all the roles you play the first thing you must do is understand what each role plays and its importance in your life. Here are a few of the roles I play in my life:
When you look at that list, it is clear that there is a lot going on in my life. Anyone of those roles could take up the majority of my day all by itself. However, on most days I am required to juggle several of those roles at the same time. It takes time, it takes hard work and the skills of a juggling master to handle all these things on the same day. To make the juggling act even more difficult is the fact that these things have to be done on the same day and they have to be juggled. I have been a wife for 26 years and a mother for 20 years. I own a consulting company with clients who depend on me to do work for them in a timely manner and for that work to be of good quality. I am a human being and need to take time from my day to eat and sleep. When you look at that long list of roles I must play personally and professionally you will understand why it is called a balancing act.
When you get up each morning and think about all you have to do personally and professionally it may be overwhelming. You may wonder how you are going to balance all the obligations and keep both your professional and personal sides happy. Instead of getting upset, frustrated and threatening to throw in the towel, simply decide you are going to work it all out and be happy. In fact, say those words out loud, “I am going to work it all out and get done what I need done today.” Words have power. Words have strength. There is a reason people say the pen is mightier than the sword. The best way to start balancing all you have to balance is to say you can do it and then look for ways to make it work.
Once you tell yourself you are going to make it work, get out your calendar. Make a list of each thing you would like to do that day. Using the calendar fill in what you will do when. Actually make a place for each item on your calendar. If an item cannot fit into the calendar, it cannot be done. This activity makes it real and clear that there are so many hours in the day. When you have a to-do list and cannot find spaces for the items on your calendar it makes it real and clear that having it all may mean doing 8 things during the day instead of 12. This is balance in the real world. Balance in the real world means doing what you can in the time available and cutting yourself a break when you don’t get 16 hours worth of things done in the 7 hours you have available.
Time is a finite thing. You cannot balance your obligations at work and home by trying to cram 30 hours of work into a 24 hour day. When you attempt to do that, you are setting yourself up to be miserable. You also cannot balance work and home by simply dividing your waking hours 50% work and 50%. That is not smart or practical. In the real world, sometimes you will need to spend 80% of your day on personal matters and 20% on work matters. Other times, you will need to spend 70% of the day on work related matters and 30% on personal matters. If your days require these kinds of splits, dividing your day in this manner is balance. The idea that dividing your time evenly among your various responsibilities is a myth. That is not how you are going to balance it all. You balance it all by dividing your day and your life as needed in each circumstance.
Most of all, stop trying to follow everyone else’s ideas for how to balance work and home. Instead look at your life, look at how things work in your real world and make balancing decisions based upon your life. The life of “experts.” celebrities and television reporters makes very little difference in your world. You know what your obligations are. You know what is negotiable and what is not. So the next time you get frustrated about how you are going to have it all and do it all, step back, pull out your calendar and accept the fact that if you cannot find room for it on the calendar you cannot do it and cut yourself a break.
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