New year’s resolutions, we all make them but really, how many of us actually keep them? For me the beginning of a new year signals a time to reflect on the year that has passed. What would I do differently and what can I do better going forward?
So this year I have decided to shift my focus and work on a better balance between my demanding career and my personal life. This elusive idea of the “perfect” balance between work and life is not a new concept, but in the interest of staying true to my own resolution I was ready to find out for myself if it is possible. So I went straight to the experts, women who are mothers, business owners, writers, wives and friends, and seemingly juggle it all effortlessly.
Erica Diamond is the leading women’s expert in lifestyle, entrepreneurship, parenting and balance. She is the founder and editor in chief of Women on the Fence.com, and is a weekly parenting correspondent on Global TV, as well as an author of the popular women’s entrepreneurial book, “99 Things Women Wish they Knew Before Starting Their own Business.” Did I mention she is also a mother and wife?
And Kathy Buckworth is an award winning writer, public speaker, and television personality. She is the author of six books, including “I Am So The Boss of You: An 8 Step Guide to Giving Your Family The Business.” She is a feature writer for Sympatico.ca in their parenting, travel, and auto sections, a parenting and travel columnist for Metro News Canada, and is also writes for the Huffington Post (Canada), ParentsCanada, Dabble Magazine, and GoodLife. She is a regular guest expert on CityLine, and acts as parenting correspondent for CTVNewsChannel. And yes she does sleep, I’ve asked.
After assembling such an amazing group of women with such diverse backgrounds I could not wait to sit down and chat with them about life, work, and balance.
As a mom, wife, and with all of your work responsibilities, how do you find balance in your life?
Kate: I’ve never felt that the term ‘balance’ was a very useful one for me. When you are trying to do a lot of things well, you are going to be living with organized chaos, and your happiness will depend on whether or not the joy outweighs the stress. Every day is different. Some days I feel that I’ve succeeded in my work. Some days I feel that I’ve succeeded as a parent, or a spouse, or a friend, or a daughter. But I rarely feel as though I’ve succeeded on all fronts in the same 24-hour period. I think we’d all be better off if we let go of the idea that there is some mystical state of balance out there that other women are achieving.
Erica: My life is honestly balanced when I can acknowledge that I need to nurture myself first. While this may appear selfish at first glance, let me explain. When I allow myself the gift of nurturing myself, I have the strength, energy and clarity to nurture my children, my husband, my business and my commitments with great success. This means, I work out, meditate, eat well, and take care of myself. Balance became integrated into my life once I let go of perfection. I am an A-type personality and am known to push very hard. I can now accept that on some days, my business will take a back seat to my family, and vice-versa, and this has been very liberating. Some days I am in the flow and some days I struggle, but being a working mother and entrepreneur is absolutely the most rewarding feeling for me.
Kathy: I am a huge list maker, and I confess to an unhealthy love of spreadsheets. I calendarize everything – from grocery shopping to doctor’s appointments to writing columns, working out, making speeches, and everything in between. I think I have a knack for prioritizing, which makes it easy. The kids always come first. My husband is also a great support on the homefront. I also don’t start watching TV shows I think I’m going to have to watch every week. I am lucky to be able to outsource some things also – business wise (accounting, website management, contract agents) and personal (cleaning lady) which help my balance a great deal.
What do you think of the pressures facing young women today?
Kate: I think that many women in our generation feel that they need to perform perfectly on all fronts. There was a time when so-called career women could feed their children Hamburger Helper and Kraft Dinner and it was considered acceptable. Stay-at-home mothers may have felt extravagantly sorry for the families of that generation of working women, but there was no expectation that they would run the parent council at school, fit into skinny jeans or bake gluten-free cupcakes for the class on birthdays in addition to working full-time. I think the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that women are driving themselves crazy, and a lot of it is self-imposed. My friend Luisa talks about attending prenatal classes for parents-to-be of twins, where couples were encouraged to embrace a ‘good enough’ parenting philosophy. I think working mothers should do the same. If you aren’t having any fun, your expectations of yourself are probably too high.
Erica: It’s the good old-fashioned double standard. Women are still expected to bring home the bacon and fry it too. We have made advancements, especially with movements like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, and husbands are helping out more than they used to, but we’re not nearly there.
Kathy: I think we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time. With kids, work, health, fitness, nutrition, when the fact is I think if you’re hitting most of these most of the time, you’re doing okay. I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing to have some pressure, as I know for myself, it can make me work harder in all of these areas, which ultimately results in a more successful, healthier and happier person.
Do you think finding a balance is possible?
Kate: It depends on what you mean by balance. I’m not a relaxed person, and I never will be. I like a certain amount of chaos. I like feeling busy and productive. But I think it’s very possible to find the right combination of rest and action, of family and work, of engagement and retreat. That combination will be slightly different for every person, depending on her priorities.
Erica: Absolutely. Knowing the tricks that will simplify your life is key and they enhance balance. The importance is knowing that balance can’t be looked at under a microscope using a small sample. Meaning, you can’t look at one single day and recognize balance. It’s a lifestyle. It takes place over time.
Kathy: Sure but everyone has their own balance. My “balance” is not going to be the same as someone else’s. I also am conscious of making my kids aware of what I face workwise, so that they hopefully understand when I can’t be there for them because I’m working or travelling for work. I try not to travel more than a couple of times a month, and when I’m home, I’m home. I rarely go out in the evenings.
Finding your own balance is really personal. But it can be achieved and as I learned from these amazing women you are not going to be able to say yes to everything or give 100% of your attention all of the time. So divide and conquer. Change up your expectations and don’t forget to have fun. It might have been easier to make “have more fun” my New Year’s resolutions. Wish me luck.