It’s an age-old question: can women have it all? How do you juggle all of your various roles—being a wife, mother, working woman—and take care of yourself? Is it even possible? I know I want it all and I know what that means for me. I want to have a fulfilling job that allows me to work hard, but not work 24/7 and I want to spend quality time with my children and my spouse on a daily basis while still finding time to take care of myself along the way. I think what I want is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and a willingness to set boundaries.
First: the hard work. I don’t know that I appreciated how hard it is to be a woman until I got married. As a woman working outside the home, the difficulty only increased once I had children. Working full-time, keeping up the house, cooking, taking care of the children, maintaining a loving relationship with my husband, making time for friends and squeezing in time for me adds up to a pretty full plate. It became clear to me early on that the biggest question I would need to answer was what am I willing to sacrifice? There certainly wasn’t an easy answer. After I took my first job in management many years ago, I worked insane hours; my blood pressure shot through the roof and my adrenaline was always going because I felt like my hair was on fire—not very healthy. I knew even at the time that it was a bad situation but I didn’t know how to change it. My husband and I were only dating then and there were no children in the picture yet, so this was as good a time as any to learn from this experience. After a year of that hectic lifestyle, I was able to move into a less stressful position, which gave me time to reflect and I decided that I needed to get some clarity on what I was willing to sacrifice for work. I determined that I would work my hardest (as I’ve always done) when I was at work, and do my best not to bring it home. This wasn’t an easy task, but with practice I find I’ve gotten the hang of compartmentalizing . Does that mean I don’t want to do a good job or that I don’t get nervous on occasion, say before an important presentation to a high level executive? No, but I’ve worked to make the necessary adjustments to my work life. In my twenties I really enjoyed traveling for work—it was an adventure and made me feel important. The luster of travel has long since worn off, which happens for most of us once we’ve been doing it for a while. I don’t mind traveling when I believe my presence is really necessary, but make it a point not to travel for travel’s sake. I’d rather spend time with my husband and kids.
Second: a little bit of luck.
Luck is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
a : a force that brings good fortune or adversity
b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual
2. verb: favoring chance; also : success
Lucky is defined as: happening by chance
I’ve never understood why luck and success are seen by some as synonymous. I know a lot of successful people who have gotten where they are because of hard work, and their willingness to learn from others, take advantage of opportunities, and take risks. This doesn’t seem very happenstance to me but certainly a little luck goes a long way in making it all come together. For instance, if you’re lucky enough to want to work in a profession that allows you to have a lot flexibility, that will likely make balancing work and family life a lot easier than if you are say, an emergency room doctor. Of course, most of our work lives are somewhere on the spectrum.
Which leads us to my final point about boundaries. A girlfriend and I were talking about work recently and I was sharing with her how hard I’ve been trying to maintain my boundaries by not working after normal business hours unless it’s necessary, making sure I’m taking time to be fully present with my husband and children, and trying to make time to take care of myself. She was very encouraging and mentioned a book she had recently read called Weird by Craig Groeschel. The book tells the reader to break from the norm of being overworked, stressed and exhausted and create boundaries to live a more fulfilling life. After briefly telling me about the book she said, “What you’re doing is weird, and that’s a good thing.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever been wanted to be called weird before, but I’ll take it, because I do want it all and don’t care how I get it—luck, hard work or both. My family is worth it and so am I.