Many entrepreneurs face the common challenge of juggling a full-time job, running a start-up business and raising a family. All . At. Once. I’ve lived it and know how it can truly test your limits, physical and emotional. When Aisle Planner reached out and shared this month’s topic of Family I jumped at the chance to participate. So many of us need the reassurance that we’re not going it alone; to hear from others how they manage the intricacies of juggling work and family life. Before I offer a few insights that I have gleaned over the years, I would like to briefly ponder the question – is it even possible? Can I really have it all? Can a woman pursue a career, build a successful business and also raise a family? AND do all three well? It seems that women continue to wrestle with this question. I know I have.
Early on in my marriage, I remember having a conversation with my mother-in-law ion the topic of pursuing a career and raising a family. She’s an accomplished nurse of 35 years who also raised and home schooled eight children. That’s right. Eight. Despite all she’s done and accomplished, she made a statement that surprised confused me: “…women can’t have it all, Karlie. It may be possible for fathers; their careers can flourish and they can be fathers because they come home and everything is done, but that’s not possible for moms.” While I love my mother-in-law deeply, I remember thinking: “Is that really true? Why can’t we have it all?!” I didn’t want to believe her, but I trusted her experience enough to take pause.
Fast forward six years and here I am, working full time in Finance, raising a family and running a rapidly growing event planning business. Some days, in my frustration (or exhaustion!), I’ve felt as though she was so right. On others, I’ve had a defiant determination to prove her wrong. All the while, I never really worked where I stood on the matter. That is, until I happened to be listening to interviews with political world leaders (part of my job in global finance) when I came across one with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The subject? Coincidentally, pursuing a career and raising a family. It struck me that RGB was particularly qualified to speak to the topic. No one can deny that she’s achieved the height of success in her profession. Yet, by all accounts, was also a loving and involved mother.
In the interview, Justice Ginsberg said something that I believe provides a thought-provoking and helpful answer to the question, “Can women ‘have it all’?”. When asked by the interviewer, Poppy Harlow, “What have you sacrificed?… There must have been something you sacrificed…” Justice Ginsburg replied:
“The question is often asked, well, not as a question, but as a statement, ‘Women can’t have it all’. My response to that is, ‘I have had it all in my long life… but not necessarily at one time.”
She went on to discuss her years of carrying the majority of the work load at home while her husband worked to make partner in his law firm. Then, the years her husband carried the majority of the work load at home while she focused on her career. Now, in her later years, she looks back and feels as though she did have it all when looking at her life in its entirety. What “having it all” meant to her morphed as her life circumstances changed with her and her husband’s growing careers and changing family.
Her response resonates deeply within me. It demonstrates how subjective the phrase “have it all” really is. Subjective by person and subjective based on the life circumstances each of us face at any given point in time. It demonstrates the need for setting priorities in every stage of life. “Having it all” means we pursue our dreams, work hard, make sacrifices, and all the while never lose sight of the most important things in life.
Below are a few strategies that I try to apply as I do my best to navigate the responsibilities and demands of being a business owner, a wife, and a mother of three boys. The process is a bit messy, I’ll admit. I am constantly reevaluating my approach, prioritizing and re-prioritizing. Finally, as I already suggested, this is a subjective process… there is no one-size-fits-all. Hopefully you find some of these strategies helpful!
Multi-tasking? Stop trying.
Psychology teaches us that we are less efficient and effective when we try to multitask. Rather than making things better, multitasking actually costs time and energy. You end up frustrated and feeling as though you didn’t do your best or enjoy the important moments of the process. Instead, segment your time and place your full focus into one thing during each segment. When you set time with your kids, it is their time – don’t try to clean, answer emails and play with them at the same time. I’ve found it helpful to view each part of your life as a respite from the other. Time loving on your family gives a reprieve from work. Time at work gives a reprieve from what can be crazy chaos at home. Segmenting your time helps you to be efficient as well as effective in each task, making you more successful in both realms.
Priorities? Yes to the Best, “No” to the rest.
This one is critical. Take a moment to consider where you are in life and determine your current priorities. Once you set them, determine boundaries that will help you maintain them. Learn to say ‘No’ (always respectfully, of course) to the client asking you to do more than you contracted for, or to your manager asking you to take on that extra project, or even to the kiddos asking to participate in more extracurricular activities. And, stop feeling guilty for it! If it isn’t good for the family as a whole, don’t add it to the plate. It will ultimately save you your sanity and will make you a better employee, a better business owner, and a better mother, as the case may be.
Let the little things go.
Laundry, cleaning every room, cooking dinner every night – If you can’t get to it without being a complete stress heap, let. It. Go. Release the feeling that you need to do it all. Let others help and make an effort to avoid perfectionism – you know, that little monster nagging in your ear saying, “I’m better off just doing it myself if I want it done right.” It helps to remind yourself that years from now, you won’t remember if the kitchen was spotless but you and your kids will remember that you took the time to read them books and tucked them into bed.
Learn from others but leave comparison alone.
This is pretty self-explanatory but also truly helpful. Since we are all in different situations and different stages of the juggling process, all of us learn different techniques for doing things efficiently and effectively. Learn from other moms rather than judging or comparing yourself to someone else. We don’t have to act like we have it all figured out. In fact, remind yourself that the outside appearance is rarely an accurate picture of reality. So rather than working out of our insecurities, we need to ask each other for advice. Discuss what is working and what is not. You never know what little nuggets of knowledge and helpful tips you will pick up along the way.