It’s the million-dollar question for every working mom. How do you balance your job and your family? It’s a valid question and worth discussing if for no other reason than it’s reassuring to hear that other working moms struggle with this too. My opinions on this topic are quite strong and I’m happy to share with you exactly what I’ve said at numerous business panels over the last eight years: Work life balance is a myth.
More than that, it’s a hurtful myth because I don’t think anyone actually achieves it and yet we feel positive that other women somehow have. So when we feel off-balance and we’re struggling to keep all our balls in the air, we assume it’s just because we haven’t figured out work / life balance. It becomes one more thing you’re failing at as a mom beyond forgetting it was weird and wacky hair day at school and buying the wrong kind of yogurt. Ugh! I detest anything that makes women feel unworthy or less than, so allow me to debunk this ridiculous myth.
Work/life balance… it’s description implies that those two things live in harmony, perfectly divided up on the scale of your life. My work and home life have never, ever been balanced evenly on any level. Even when I was a seventeen-year-old sandwich maker at the Substation in my hometown… even then there were days when a big project at school meant that I couldn’t work as many hours. Or accepting a lucrative Saturday shift (ripe with tip money) meant that I couldn’t hang out with my friends. Work and personal life will always battle each other for supremacy, because both require your full attention to be successful. It’s doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, it’s just how life works.
Work and personal life will always battle each other for supremacy, because both require your full attention to be successful.
Sometimes my boys have school activities or doctor’s appointments and I have to leave work to be present for those. Likewise there are days when we have a big photo shoot at Chic or I have to travel for business, which means missing a couple of evenings at home. The scale is never balanced; it’s an ever-moving thing that constantly shifts back and forth based on what requires my attention that day. I think that’s real for most of us moms and the only way we’re going to get past this mythology that some people have it all figured out is to start being honest about what our lives and priorities really look like. Here, I’ll go first…
My Self – In my early days as a mom and entrepreneur I wasn’t a priority at all. I would run myself ragged taking care of everyone else and never once worried about how it all might affect me. This was a disaster. I got really sick at least once a year. I was always stressed out. I was always struggling with my weight. It was a mess. Then someone pointed out that I couldn’t take care of anyone properly if I didn’t first take care of myself. My health and well-being is now my biggest priority. I get eight hours of sleep every night… yes, eight. Not six or even seven, eight full hours. I eat well, I drink water by the bucket load, I haven’t let Diet Coke touch my lips in over two years. Yes, I’m still addicted to coffee, but we can’t win ‘em all.
I took up running and schedule my time so I get in at least twelve miles a week. I carve out several hours a week for prayer, church and volunteer work because my faith is extremely important to me. I don’t think the goal is ever to be balanced ladies, I think the goal is to be centered. If I prioritize myself and make sure I’m grounded and centered then everything else runs smoothly… even when it’s running at a hundred miles an hour!
My Marriage – I’m sure that many parents would naturally list their children as their first priority, but my marriage will always be the most important relationship in my life. Dave and I have a weekly date night and we take an annual vacation—wait for it—without our children. When we’re at home we’re playing interference with three little boys so it’s essential that we get to hang out with each other and act like real live adults. Because we’re both so supportive of each other’s careers it can be really easy to start to neglect our relationship, which has happened numerous times over the years. So rather than risk slipping into somewhere unhealthy, we’ve agreed to make each other our first priority.
My Kids – I have three little boys; Jackson (8) Sawyer (7) and Ford (3) so even when I’m not at work, I’m always on the go. I take all three boys to school every day unless I’m traveling. I leave work by five to relieve the nanny and then it’s dinner, baths, books, bedtime, etc. Now that I’ve painted that picture I will back up and tell you about the first two years of running my company. I worked like a maniac. I was often in the office by eight in the morning, which means I was never able to do school drop off. I got snarky notes from moms at school about missing field trips and bake sales and I cried myself to sleep about them more nights than I can count. Nobody ever sent snarky notes to my husband for having to work during a field trip— but that’s a diatribe for another time. Most evenings I got home around 7pm which means I missed dinner. It was a really difficult time, but that kind of workload is also part of being an entrepreneur and running a startup. Some people will argue that I lost valuable time with my kids, and I won't disagree. I’ve since scaled back my time at work in order to present for those moments I missed for two years. But what I will say is, those three little boys have watched their mom build a company from the ground up. They’ve seen first-hand the power of hard work and dedication and for being that example to them, I’m proud.
My Work – I wont pretend that there weren’t times where work didn’t take up most of my attention. I also wont pretend that those weren’t the times that were hardest on my marriage, my health and my ability to be the kind of mom I want to be. Now that I’m more established in my career, I’m better able to get my work done during office hours. Also three years in means I have the help of my incredible assistant and staff, so it doesn’t all fall on my shoulders. Of course there are times when work gets hectic, but I push to make sure my family gets make-up time if I’m away. Remember, it’s a scale that slides back and forth. Some seasons of your life will require more attention in one area than another, and that’s ok. Give yourself some grace because, “this too shall pass.”
Rachel Hollis is the founder of the popular lifestyle blog The Chic Site and Los Angeles-based event-planning firm, Chic Events. At 27, she was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs under 30.” Hollis is also the author of the Amazon Bestselling women’s fiction series, “The Girls” published by Lake Union Publishing.