Juggling work and home… what I’ve learnt so far!
As a working mum of two I have spent the last 20 years engaged in a delicate balancing act of managing family and career commitments, juggling conflicting priorities and trying to carve out time for everyone… including myself! As my youngest daughter approaches her final years of high school the balancing act continues; I still need to be there for my children as they embark on young adulthood, work commitments are growing at the same time and life is busier than ever but somewhere along the way I have learnt a little about how to make it all work – for me and my family at least!
The dilemma of how we prioritise our time and energy is one that every working parent feels at some time. It is a conversation I have with job seekers on a daily basis as consideration of family needs and finding that elusive ‘work life balance’ becomes a key priority when changing jobs and looking at new career opportunities.
I have been lucky enough for the last 13 years to be part of an organisation that promotes flexibility and allows me the freedom to come and go as I need so that I can be there for my children and do my job when it works for me. Sometimes that means that I am sitting at my computer at 10pm writing reports – but it also means that I don’t miss my daughter’s ballet performance even when it falls on a Tuesday afternoon.
Finding the right employer that values what you bring to the organisation and offers the flexibility you need is critical to feeling in control and able to meet the priorities of both home and work. Flexibility and work life balance mean different things to different people and employers may have very different policies and cultural norms around what they offer and what is considered acceptable. It is important to do your due diligence prior to accepting a role to ensure the organisation is aligned with your needs – ask a lot of questions during interviews, talk to current or former employees and seek the advice of your recruitment consultant for their knowledge and experiences.
Being upfront about what you can and can’t do will ensure you are entering a new organisation with clear expectations on both sides of what is reasonable and acceptable in terms of flexibility, working hours and time in the office. It is critical then to deliver on what you have promised – sometimes that might mean working late to meet a deadline but can be a reasonable trade off as long as that is balanced with the flexibility you need to manage family commitments. Good employers are usually willing to be flexible, fair and trusting to those that display strong cultural alignment, a willingness to contribute to the greater team effort and commitment to doing what they have promised.
Achieving real sustainable work life balance in the long term can feel like an unrealistic goal and we can make ourselves crazy if we focus on achieving the unattainable. By adjusting our expectations of perfection and focusing on doing our best day to day we can achieve a sense of balance, flexibility and commitment that works for each of us – whatever that may look like. Having a strong network of friends, colleagues and family as well as an employer who is aligned to your values and appreciates what you have to offer can make this journey so much easier and mean we can even carve out a little ‘me’ time now and then along the way.
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