Finding the elusive work/life balance... with a little help from your friends

Posted

As women, we face ever-present challenges, both obvious and hidden. Having a supportive network is a key to survival. A proud mother of three young women, ranging in age from 23 to 33, I position myself as a member of their network, one to whom they can turn anytime, despite the fact that they are all independent, career-oriented individuals.

From the sidelines, I share pearls of wisdom with regularity – far too often, they would say. I do so because I want to optimize their potential and spare them from making inopportune decisions. My goal is to support them as they cycle through their working and personal worlds.

The lack of a perfect recipe for a work/life balance is a common challenge women face. On any given day, one supersedes the other. Pressing matters are often noisiest in our minds. Yet, just because they are noisy doesn’t mean they warrant our undivided attention. The trick is to quiet the noise and to determine what is essential. Strategic thinking and prioritizing to the best of our ability are key.

Try not to overextend. In good faith, we think we can weave work priorities, self-care and extracurricular activities into a day. The fact is – there is a limit, and adhering to your limit is hard. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we can only take on just so many interactions and activities – work-related and extracurricular – in a day. Do not beat yourself up for saying no or for paring back.

Establish goals, short and long term, both work-related and personal. Know they will change, but refer to them often enough to prompt you to evaluate where you are. Make yourself accountable. Life is swift and replete with obstacles that derail us. Find your north stars and let them guide you. Settle on a rhythm of self-assessment that suits you.

Find mentors in the workplace and a network beyond, particularly if you have childcare or adult-care needs. Many women who were stretched to capacity have come before you. Ask them to share their coping strategies. Don’t be shy – they are often a wonderful resource.

As a colleague eloquently stated:

“With my life recently, I’ve had many challenges, but I’m so grateful that I am working. What I have found in the workplace is that sharing my dilemmas with others has helped me to sift through the issues and make decisions based on priorities. The big question is, ‘How important is it?’ Without my employment, I would not have the many different opinions and the guidance that have become so important to me.”

So, though I would like to think I have many answers, indeed, I have few. To the best of your ability, live life with intention. Make self-care a priority. Remember to put your oxygen mask on first so you can sustain yourself and those within your embrace.

My middle daughter mentors many millennial girls and shares this tidbit from her training sessions: “Know that being a woman is your competitive edge. Don’t shy away from the importance of intuition and emotional intelligence. Beyond work and your core expertise, they serve you well.”

In my view, no truer words were ever spoken!

SUSAN BAZAR (sbazar@jsari.org) is executive director of the Jewish Seniors Agency of Rhode Island.