Is Balancing Work and Life the Way to Go?

Working mom checking her mobile phone

Many people are chasing the elusive concept of work-life balance, but is balance really the best way to go? Building walls between work and life, keeping them separate, and trying to devote an equal amount of time to each might actually cause you more stress and use up more energy

As a working parent, you have a career, countless family responsibilities, and hardly enough time each day to take care of it all. Instead of trying to create a balance by keeping work and life isolated, try work-life integration. Here are ideas you can try:

  1. Bring Your Whole Self to Work
  2. Many companies emphasize bringing your whole self to work, meaning your personal life doesn’t end once you set foot in the office. If your daughter is sick, your dog is having surgery, your family’s only other car has a flat tire, or your spouse has to fly across the country due to a family emergency, talk with your colleagues about it. Whether it is exciting news or something stressful that’s weighing on your mind, don’t feel like you can’t (or shouldn’t) talk about it. Put it out there and find support from trusted colleagues – even if it’s just ears to listen.

  3. Be Open with Your Boss
  4. Life doesn’t always operate on an even keel. You might think you’ve got everything handled, but there are times when emotions can bubble to the surface, like, if your child is sick or you have a family emergency. Avoid a meltdown by being candid with the boss instead of trying to manage on your own.

  5. Rethink Your Lunch Hour
  6. You have so many personal responsibilities, so little time, and so few hours between one workday and the next (unless you want to give up sleep!). Instead of working through lunch, take time for those little things (like calling the insurance company or getting in your daily exercise) that could eat up time in the evening. The time you save now is time you get back with your family later.

  7. Enjoy Your Company
  8. The relationships you develop at work can be some of the most powerful: you spend the majority of your day with your coworkers, after all. Take the time to get to know your colleagues, and uncover common interests. But don’t feel like you have to do everything they do. As a working parent, it can be hard to fit after-work activities into your busy schedule, so you may not be inclined to go to every 5:30 p.m. happy hour. Pick and choose the occasional outing and don’t feel guilty for the events you can’t make.

  9. Let Your Children Tag Along
  10. “Take Your Child to Work Day” may be but once a year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only day it can happen. If your organization allows, consider bringing your child into work for a couple hours during school vacation, on a Friday, or if you’re in a pinch. It’ll be fun to show off where you go each day, will give your child a glimpse into what your work life looks like, and it will help your colleagues put a face to the name they’re always hearing about.

  11. Work from Home
  12. What better way to integrate work and life than to work from home? When it’s an option, telecommuting enables you to pick up older children from school and perhaps even spend a little extra time with younger children while you work. Even better, without a commute in the picture, you might even feel more focused. 

    Find the right way to integrate for you. Aiming for work-life integration will help you feel less stressed. You might have to take an evening conference call from home one night, but you might make up for it by being able to attend your child’s soccer game the next day. Instead of worrying about keeping work and life separate, let them mingle and see what happens.

    Episode 20: The Work-Life Equation Podcast

    On this episode: work-life “fit” — creating more time in your day to help you fit more of what you want into your life: family, work, or personal time. How? The secret, according to our guest, Morra Aarons-Mele, is in “place, pace, and space.” Listen as the host of the Forbes podcast “Hiding in the Bathroom,” explains how she took charge of her own work-life equation…and how you can, too.
     

Subscribe to “The Work-Life Equation” podcast to receive notifications when new episodes are available: Apple PodcastsStitcher, and SoundCloud.

 

Resources: Making Work and Life Fit

  • Morra runs the marketing agency, Women Online. She’s also a mom of three.
  • In her book, Morra writes about working and having a career on your own terms.