Thirteen years ago I left my full time accounting job at an energy company to stay home with my oldest son Christopher. It wasn’t part of the plan but he had health concerns that required lot of care and attention. Prior to that I was a 110% at work kind of person. Since then I’ve struggled to balance home and work. It’s difficult when you want to give 110% to both work and home.
I remember conversations with my parents growing up and being told I could be whatever I wanted to be. Unfortunately those conversations didn’t include a discussion about having a family at the same time. No fault of my parents, it just wasn’t as common to have women in demanding careers as well as juggling children.
As I’ve ramped up to 110% again at work it’s made me reflect on all the different combinations of work/family I’ve lived. (All percentages denote the split of the Monday to Friday work week).
At 100% work “no family work” was my life, but I was lucky enough to have lots of friends at work and a fantastic social network. I didn’t have any guilt about being somewhere else because I had nowhere else to be. I think that had as much to do with the fact that I was also in a low responsibility part of my life – no house or car payments – than it did with the fact I didn’t have a family yet.
100% Family aka “no work” – From a parenting perspective it was fabulous in that I could spend my day making super-healthy meals, exercise for both myself and the kids, and spend time organizing my house and arranging events with friends. The kids were on a much better schedule as I had the mental energy to enforce consistent rules. From a work perspective I felt like there was a huge piece of me missing. Why did I spend so many years in higher education if I was just going to spend it at home with my boys? When I got with friends that I did my business degree with (mostly men) I felt so removed from the conversation. I watched their careers progress when mine was non-existent. It was frustrating.
50% work 50% family –It was a great split of work and family as I was still keeping my hand in but I always felt I was supposed to be somewhere else. Just when I’d get rolling at home I’d have to leave for work, and just when I got into the middle of something at work I had to leave for home. I was definitely not using my full mental capabilities in the office because I was time-constrained and so didn’t take on the more complex projects. On the flip side I was super productive because I knew I only had a limited time to get things done in each role. It definitely made me focus in each role.
110% work and 110% family –After many years I can now say I’m at a place where I realize that a lot of the expectations I was trying to live up to were in my head. Everyone else could see that they were ridiculous and in many cases unnecessary. The results of that realization have made me a better mother and I hope a better boss, because I realize now that I can’t do it all alone nor should I want to. Everyone on both the “family” side of my life (and I use this in it’s broadest sense) and on the work side have lots of insights into how things can be done that I likely never would have thought of. Now I’m smart enough to ask them to share those insights. It’s also resulted in my boys having to learn how to do more for themselves which can only be a good thing. This also has the added benefit of more time to cuddle because they help me get through the to do list at home I previously would have done alone.
It’s definitely not a one size fits all family/work split and I’ve found it’s changed as the needs of my family have changed. The hardest part is that we don’t always get to dictate when it’s time to spend more time at home or work. For those who do embrace it wholeheartedly and enjoy every minute.
How do you feel as a woman trying to balance work/family?
What’s your ultimate split? Let us know.