At the end of each summer, and as my kids head back to school, I breathe a sigh of relief. It signals the end of all day babysitters and camps, and means I can stop beating myself up about whether I was with them enough or created a respectable amount of fun.
According to a Harvard study, working moms shouldn’t waste anytime feeling guilty about having a career. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Research shows that kids of working moms may fare better than those of their stay-at-home counterparts. Daughters of working moms on average will earn 23% more annually than those with non-working mothers, and the sons of professional women will grow up to be more helpful around the house. So maybe it is time to abandon that guilt after all.
Yet while the benefits for children of working moms become more apparent, these moms are still left with a tough balancing act. According to a Working Mother Research Institute survey on CNBC, working moms – even if they are the breadwinners – still do the majority of household chores.
Which begs the question, how do we as working moms find balance between demands of office and home without constantly feeling like we aren’t doing either job well? Here are seven strategies I’ve learned through the years that help me maintain balance and a positive mindset at work and home:
- Create blank space – Whether you’re a full-time employee or a part-time telecommuter, creating blank space in our personal lives can reduce stress at home and at the office. Creating margin might mean saying no to soccer, a son’s playdate or a dinner party. Without self-imposed blank space, I can easily become overwhelmed, over-worked and left feeling like I’m not doing either the job as mom or employee very well.
- “Strength in Numbers” – This is a slogan from the 2015 NBA finals champions Golden State Warriors, but one I’ve adopted for my own life. Every mom needs a group of women who are “her people.” It’s the mom you can call say “I’m running late, can you grab my child from school” to the friend that will blend her family with yours for a weekend hike. With these women, you’ll find strength and a sounding board, and create opportunities to share strategies on how to manage work and home life.
- Staff up – You have four loads of laundry, two proposals to write and three kids to drive to baseball, swim and gymnastics. If you’re a working mom, find a way to budget in some extra helpers. Hire a babysitter that can also do laundry and prep dinner. Set up carpools. Doing this will actually create more opportunities for quality time with your kids and in turn, you’ll feel less guilty about the time you’re away at that dinner meeting and you’ll feel more in control.
- Put your kids to work – I am obsessed with the book Cleaning House. In it, former White House staffer author Kay Wills Wyma conducts a 12-month experiment to “rid her home of youth entitlement.” She offers strategies to get your kids doing their fair share. We started this over the summer and it’s made such a huge difference in our family. You’ll be happier and have more time to focus on work and home, and surprisingly, your kids will gain satisfaction from pulling their own weight.
- Reflect and Respond – I have a friend that is probably one of the most productive and positive people you’ll ever meet. She’s a VP at California winery Hall Wines and I recently asked how she juggles work and parenting. Every night, she replays her day in her mind, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. She develops new strategies to respond the day’s shortfalls, and employs them the very next day. Rather than get down on herself, she sees the day’s challenges as an invitation to make the next day better.
- To do lists – Yes, this seems obvious. However, making the list is only half of it. On most days, I lie in bed at night and make to do list for the next day. (Because I work with China, I’m up anyway.) After compiling my list, I re-order the tasks in a way that maximizes the time I have. For example, I know I write best in the morning, so I’ll put that task at the top of my list, and send emails and make calls later in the day.
- Exercise – Without it, we don’t get the endorphin rush. And without that, all of the little things around us can make us feel overwhelmed. When you exercise first thing in the day – I personally love Barre3 – you at least have one accomplishment you can feel good about. So that whatever the day brings, you will have that to fall back on, not to mention all of the health benefits associated with it!
As many of you kiss your children goodbye for school this month, remember that life without balance is like a car without gas. If the tank is empty, you can’t function. There are simple steps we can all take, and the above are the ones that work best for me. For more tips on balancing life and work, make sure you check out the next Women in Localization Event October 1 in Silicon Valley, “How Does She Do it All? Being a Superwoman in the Tech Industry.”
Elena is the Vice President for Global Communications at CSOFT International and is based in the company's San Francisco office. Prior to joining the translation tech industry, Elena managed public relations campaigns across several vertical markets, from video games and handhelds to e-cycling and packaged goods. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA.