The many women, the ultimate goal is finding the perfect balance between all of life’s important pieces and being able to declare that you “have it all.” But what does that actually mean? Does it entail having financial stability, a happy family, a powerful career, a nice home or that magical sense of “balance” you hear so much about? Most likely your goal is a combination of these.
The problem with the idea of having it all is that it ignores the more effective “give and take". If everyone could simply have it all without some kind of sacrifice, there’d be no reason to write this post. The reality? Any goal worth achieving, such as being an entrepreneur, takes not only hard work and determination but also smart choices. It’s a simple equation: something must be given up in order to gain something else.
So how can women make the most of their career potential and enjoy their lives to the fullest? Perhaps it’s time to redefine the expectations that women have for themselves and each other.
Accept Workplace Flexibility (Without Feeling Inferior)
Juggling the demands of a career and family is undoubtedly challenging—and that’s why flexible work schedules can be a lifesaver. Although flexible schedules are an ideal solution, they’re not always easy to come by. There are many pros and cons to working from home that businesses consider. Even though the technology exists for employees to perform almost any job without being tied to an office, not all employers view flexible working arrangements as a solution. Another obstacle? Many women feel that they’re somehow less of a worker if they ask for or accept non-traditional schedules, especially if other people in their departments work on traditional terms.
Sallie Krawcheck recently wrote about the need for women to view workplace as the concept of flexibility without shame. She claims that rigidity in workplace scheduling is the new “glass ceiling” because it keeps women, particularly mothers, from reaching their career potential. For employers to fully realize the potential of the female workforce, women have to request—and confidently accept—a flexible workload.
Take Time Away
It sounds simple, but women are notorious for not getting enough “me” time. For those who are self-employed or work as freelancers, it’s even tougher to carve out time away when dealing with an “always on the clock” mentality. Yet scheduling time off is necessary for your well-being, so plan it in advance and give it the same weight as the other items on your agenda. According to Expedia, only 38% of American workers use their earned vacation time – an average 14 to 18 days per year. Most small business owners take fewer than the average days. As cliché as it may sound, make sure to put yourself first without guilt and you’ll be more productive in the long run.
In addition to the occasional vacation or time away, you also need some time daily to refocus. Even if you simply take 20 minutes per day for meditation, exercise, or light reading, make the time for a break—your physical and mental health will likely improve as a result.
Encourage Other Women
If you’re like me, you find the pop culture depictions that pit women against women offensive. And although they’re petty, they’re also sometimes closer to reality than I’d like to admit—at least in my experience. That being said, I don’t think all women should blindly agree with each other or smile instead of debate. Instead, women need to know where they stand and have the ability to express their own beliefs in a way that’s respectful towards others, and hear a difference of opinion without taking it personally. After all, there’s beauty in being different.
Remember this when discussing high-profile women like mom and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. And when talking about women who live next door or volunteer with you at your child’s school. Think about your motivation before sending something out in public. Ask yourself if you’re trying to make a valid point or simply cutting another woman down. Do not rush into judgment, especially in a public way, but instead frame your arguments in a way that respects others.
We need to work as a group to change public opinion by first changing our own. Managing our expectations of achieving balance just may be the key to finding it.