Spinning Plates, Juggling Knives & Making Meatloaf: The Work-Life Balance

When it comes to your job and your home life, “balancing” isn’t an option-
it’s a necessity.
To paraphrase Freddie Mercury of Queen, we “want it all.”

The question is whether this balance can ever really be attained.

Working women know this better than anyone.
How can you be a fully contributing cog in the workplace and then also play the role of dedicated wife, mother, lover and friend?
I guess it’s the new version of the “Madonna/Whore” dichotomy.

For men, years of sexist and antiquated role models and traditions have made the demands upon them less tactile and apparent. Still, many struggle with their multiple roles as spouse, father, partner and friend.

Regardless of gender, stereotypes or past practice, the real question is what can you do to make some serious headway towards this elusive goal of work/life balance.

Here are some tips:

  • Sit down with your partner and kids and explain what the demands of your job are. Family members will be more understanding if they have a general idea of what’s coming.
  • Make your trips away from home an educational exercise (use a map to point out your destination and bring home something indigenous). Pretty soon, your kids may actually encourage you to go to more and different places so that their “collection” will expand.
  • Make a commitment to an activity or an event every weekend (e.g. soccer, movies, pizza night, etc).
  • Don’t make a promise that you can’t keep. Broken promises sting far worse than unmade ones.
  • Give yourself a daily “break.” Whether it is a hot bath or 30 minutes of watching Sports Center, you will appreciate the down time and be better equipped to deal with everyone else.
  • Don’t send mixed messages. Family dinner is not the time for calls or Blackberry monitoring. Shut the outside world off—-even if it is just for a few minutes.
  • Be a good listener. One of the nice things about not being with your significant others every second is that it gives them a chance to live their lives and to have things to talk about. Ask personal questions and listen like it matters. Also, listen far more than you talk.
  • Share your day with your partner, ask for advice and engage them in your work world. If they understand your daily pressure, they will cut you more slack.
  • Commit to vacation time and re-establish and maintain the fabric of your family unit.
  • If you have to work at home, do it before the family wakes up or after they go to sleep. What they don’t see won’t remind them of your “other” life.
  • Explain the “opportunity cost” of work to your family in economic terms. Would they rather that you worked 1/2 the hours but had to give up 1/2 of the goodies? (e.g. vacations, nice clothes, cable TV, text messaging, eating out in restaurants, movies, etc.).
  • Bring your family to work at least once. It will help them create a picture memory that will enable them to envision where you are when they communicate with you on the phone or via e-mail.
  • Leave family members notes (in silly places) while you are away. It will feel like a little hug when they find it.

    Today’s Tip: No one has the ability to keep the see-saw of work/life in a perfectly horizontal and balanced position. It’s angle changes every day and the tilt can be painful. Don’t get upset at the imbalance. Adjust it. The ultimate secret is to make each minute count and to work hard at not working so hard.

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