I find that attitudes to work/life balance are changing. At one time, women never even thought about it – they just got on with doing a job, running the home, sorting out family issues and maybe listening to an odd relaxation tape when they couldn’t sleep.
Then work/life balance became an issue that organisations decided to take seriously so they looked at what they could put in place to support working women – working mothers especially. So women’s expectations were raised. Now they were led to believe that balance was possible and they now desired it and even expected it. Did things improve then? NO! Not only did their lives not improve – but they now felt aggrieved whereas before they just got on with it. Not only that – men were also aggrieved that work/life balance seemed to be considered a women’s issue when many men were also struggling with travelling too much, working all hours and never seeing their children.
There are two main reasons why work/life balance initiatives aren’t working. The first is that they never will work while they are seen as women’s issues. They will only work when organisations treat seriously the alternatives to work patterns that could alleviate everyone’s stress. And as long as men have female wives and partners who can take care of the home front (whether or not those women have paid jobs); and as long as men who DO want to take flexible work options (and paternity leave and compassionate days to take care of sick children) are told that it might affect their promotion chances and they will be seen as not serious about their careers…then frankly – nothing WILL change. So it’s a joke.
The second reason that work/life balance strategies won’t work is that we are never going to be able to create a perfectly balanced life ALL THE TIME. And this is where the myth comes into play. Perfect balance would be where we can stand in the middle of a see-saw where ‘work’ is at one end and ‘rest-of-life’ is at the other and be perfectly still. But, as every woman knows, it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes we are wobbling on the ‘rest-of-life’ end because a child is sick or our mother falls and breaks her arm and suddenly there is too much weight on that end of the see-saw. Or we have a deadline at work for an important project and the ‘work’ end of the see-saw is weighted down and we hardly see our children for a week. We are constantly wobbling around having to juggle our priorities – and our time – and readjust…and readjust…and readjust. So maybe it’s the word ‘balance’ that’s the illusion. So maybe a better phrase is ‘work/life effectiveness’ which relates to our skill in managing the juggle and the struggle.
So is there nothing that women themselves can do about their endlessly exhausting schedule? (like it or not it IS women who bear the brunt of the family organisation). Here are 5 things you can implement immediately:
1 Insist that your children start being responsible for themselves: introduce them to Post-It notes for things they have to remember for school – don’t pickup stuff from their bedroom floors – only wash things they have put in the laundry basket – give them specific household jobs to do (the completion of which is linked to their pocket money). The main principle is “Don’t do it for them if they are capable of doing it for themselves”.
2 Do a list of all the household jobs (most of which YOU do!) and put FAMILY CONTRIBUTION as a heading. Call a meeting of the family – yes – a meeting – and agree on whose name is going next to which job. The purpose of this (apart from getting rid of some jobs) is to educate the family that it’s everybody’s responsibility to run the household – not just yours. And to remind them that you (and your husband/partner if you have one) are contributing the finances so the children have to contribute in other ways.
3 Start saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to do outside of work If you find it difficult to say ‘no’ outright, then buy yourself some time by saying “Let me think about that and get back to you”. NOW you can work out how you are going to refuse. Have a stock sentence you can use in these cases like “That’s not going to work for me on this occasion – maybe another time”. Avoid making an excuse – you DO have a right to refuse requests made of you without having to apologise for it.
4 Stop doing things you think you ‘should’ do. For some tips on dealing with the SOS’s (shoulds, oughts and supposed to’s) see the 2 minute video From Guilt to Grace on my Powerful Woman Facebook Page http://tiny.cc/yrm5fw.
5 Raise your vibration! This might sound like a weird strategy but it’s only when we can step off the emotional treadmill and endless activity that we can access the deepest part of ourselves where stillness and INNER balance live. When we do that we slow down our lives and increase our vibration. So how to raise your vibration? Here are two easy ways:
– Find five things every day to be grateful for ( a great cup of coffee; a beautiful flower; a friend who made you laugh…anything). Find as many as you can actually but AT LEAST five. Feeling grateful fills our heart full of love which is the fastest way to change your vibration.
– At one (at least) point every day stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, look round and say to yourself “I’m really enjoying what I am doing – RIGHT NOW”. The more we enjoy the moments we are living, the less stressed we are by the moments that are rushing by.
The RECLAIM YOUR POWER:RECLAIM YOUR LIFE series of audios looks at these issues and more, and will help you to maintain inner balance in all that you do; be more valued and visible at work and direct your life from a more powerful place. Why not check out the programme: http://powerfulwoman.net/reclaim.html
And for quick tips and two minute videos stop by my Powerful Woman Facebook page: http://tiny.cc/yrm5fw