Lately, I’ve felt like a spinning, toy top trying to balance all parts of my life. I have a big event coming up at work that is sucking up a lot of time and energy during the day. At night I have dinner to make and two kids who want my attention (rightfully so). On top of all that, add in finding time to clean the house, exercise, have a moment of self time or time for my husband and I to just have a discussion. Oh, and did I mention my kids don’t sleep? So no rest for the weary at night either.
Like a toy top, when I can keep everything going and balanced I can spin with the best of them, feeling confident that I am keeping it altogether and probably making it look somewhat effortless. And, sometimes surprisingly, there are days where I feel that I can make it all happen. However, when I can’t keep everything balanced, just like the top, I tip over, heavier due to the imbalance that might be weighing me down at the moment. That happens more often that I would like to admit.
I know a lot of us moms, and dads, have issues with balance. So, I decided to talk to someone about it. Below is a quick Q&A between myself and life coach Jody Michael, CEO and Founder of Jody Michael Associates. With more than 20 years of coaching experience, Jody gets it. Keep reading to get her take on how to find better balance as a mom, whether you are a working mom or stay-at-home mom.
1. Why is having balance in life – among ourselves, our families, children, work – so important?
Women, more so than men, often lose their identity in what they do — forgetting to cultivate who they are. In attending to everyone else’s needs, it’s easy to lose sight of themselves.
When you achieve balance in your life, you are able to bring your best self to all aspects of your life — including work, parenting, relationships and—above all—your self-confidence.
2. What advice would you give to moms who don’t feel balanced in their lives?
I would congratulate them on being aware of the imbalance in their lives. This awareness is like the sand in the oyster shell that eventually produces a pearl. When you know something is “off,” you can begin to fix it.
I remind clients to be patient as they explore new and different ways of approaching challenges; if rushing to squeeze in a yoga practice before the kids go to school and you leave for work results in frenzy, maybe finding a time later in the afternoon will fit better with your schedule. If one option doesn’t work, that’s OK; try another.
3. How does it differ from working moms to stay at home moms?
The difference is less about working moms versus stay-at-home moms and more about individual styles. (See additional comment at end.) While it’s true that working moms can have more acts to juggle, many stay-at-home moms take on just as full a plate, whether that means making their own baby food, enrolling in “mommy-and-me” classes, taking on volunteer roles at their kids’ schools or playing chauffeur as their kids get older. For moms with more than one child, these activities are often simultaneous!
Balance is all about how a mom — or anyone, really — feels about achieving fulfillment in areas of their life.
4. How would you counsel stay at home moms who value staying home, but still feel like they are missing out on something in the workplace or on their career in general?
Look at the glass as half-full, not half-empty. You’ve made a choice; enjoy it!
So many women we see in our career coaching practice express regret — but the ratio is equally divided between moms who made the choice to stay at home while their children were young and fear they’ve missed out on career opportunities, and those who worked during those years and regret missing milestones or their kids basketball games.
It’s true that the workplace is rapidly changing. Stay-at-home moms who feel like they might be compromising their career can still keep their heads in the game by staying abreast of industry news, attending workshops and networking events when convenient and maintaining relationships with former colleagues.
5. How do you help working moms feel better about their decision to work or help them decide if working is what’s best for them?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In this economy, many women are forced to go back to work, even if they would rather stay at home with their young children. Everyone has a different reality.
Returning to the workforce after having a baby—or at various ages and stages — is a very individual decision that women often discuss when they come to us for career coaching services. If she is unsure, we often explore whether telecommuting or arranging a flex-time schedule can help them achieve greater work-life balance. For many women, this is a good time to consider working as a freelancer.
If a woman makes the decision to go back to work, I emphasize the importance of being present — both at work and at home. If you’re physically at work, but your mind is on your first grader’s Halloween costume, not only will it affect your work performance; it will also make you feel less balanced. Likewise, when you’re home, be home. Focus on your family — and on your own self-care.
6. How can dads or spouses help create more balance for moms?
Good question …!
Many couples decide to divide and conquer, while others find that rotating duties works best for them. Both stay-at-home and working moms sometimes have difficulty getting the help they want because they struggle with asking for what they need. Knowing how to effectively ask for help is essential, and can do wonders to help create more balance for moms — as well as nurture a couple’s relationship as they learn to support one another.
7. What are some simple ways moms can cope if they feel they just are having a rough time balancing? Are there small changes they can make verses big life changes?
Absolutely. Small changes are the best way to break any sense of feeling “stuck.” (See response above re: alternative work options or freelancing – and also additional comment at end.)
8. Sometimes a working mom can’t just leave and a stay at home mom might have a tough time re-entering the workplace. How can they stay positive and stay in a place that still allows them to be productive for their families and/or work environments?
So much of the stress we all feel is caused by perception — the messages we tell ourselves that determine our thoughts and moods. Two working moms — let’s call them Maria and Alexis —can be working side by side in the same office, for the same boss, clocking the same hours. Maria experiences a great deal of chronic stress while Alexis sails through her days calm, cool and collected.
Assuming all external factors are equal (number and ages of children, help with household chores and child care, etc.), Maria’s self-talk is likely the culprit, depleting her of energy — and limiting her ability to cope with the everyday demands of work and home. On the other hand, Alexis has a better handle on managing her thoughts and moods, which translates into a greater overall sense of wellbeing — not to mention increased productivity and efficiencies.
Hopefully, you found Jody’s answers as helpful as I did. If you have additional questions or thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments section.
(Note: Jody Michael Associates offers a one-day immersive workshop — “Mind Mastery” — that teaches you how to change your thoughts, moods and behaviors so that you can respond to any situation with a renewed sense of control. If you are interested in learning more about the methodology, please contact them to find out when the next workshop will be offered. Workshops include two individual follow-up sessions with one of our trained, certified coaches.)