The title of this article may seem out of place or discouraging in a forum for working moms, but bear with me on this one; it’s not that overall balance for working moms is impossible, but it is a myth that there will always be balance between our personal and professional lives.
Getting used to this idea is a watershed moment in the lives of working moms, and once accepted, the idea is liberating. For example, as a working mom, a large part of my job is grant writing and lab research, essentially all of which is driven by deadlines. I spent years beating myself up about the fact that when I have a grant deadline looming I end up working on the weekends in the lab or at my office to make sure I hit the deadline. My husband and kids take it in stride, waving goodbye to me on Saturday morning and heading out to see a movie or play in the park. I return home in the evening, strung-out but successful in my work tasks, and constantly apologizing for being gone during family time. Finally, one night my husband asked me what I was apologizing for. “It’s not like you do this all the time, you know -- once in a while you have to put in a little extra time at work, and that’s OK.”
You know, he was right, and as soon as he said it out loud, I realized that it was true --working slavishly on weekends and during family time was, and is, a rarity, made more conspicuous in my own mind by its infrequency. I remember the smells in the kitchen, the music on the iPod, and what shirt he was wearing when he said it that night. It was that powerful for me, and I am grateful to him for having said it.
I’ve had the pleasure of telling many colleagues and clients that same thing since that night, with similar effect. Interestingly, this concept of accepting that it’s really OK if sometimes we let work come first to meet a deadline, and equally, that sometimes (often?) it’s necessary to put the brakes on at work to make a baseball game, dance recital, or parent-teacher conference can be uncomfortable at first for working moms, as we’re supposed to have all the balls in the air at the same time. Accepting that sometimes one thing has to get a bit more attention that another is yet another way that working moms can nourish and support themselves; it reduces “supermom” syndrome instantly.
Of course, it’s not always easy to remember that it’s OK to be out of balance from time to time, but keeping a few primary things in the front of your mind can help: