As working moms, our preference is to do everything on our own – or at least to try! From the get-go, we have trouble setting boundaries, no matter how straightforward that may seem. Setting boundaries means finding our balance and knowing when to tell our boss (even if that happens to be ourselves) that we need to focus on our family, or telling our spouse or child that this deadline is really important and that we’re “underground” for a few days to get the job done .
As much as we want to be able to do everything for everyone, if you have tried this, it has most likely ended in frustration, exhaustion, and even feelings of failure or guilt. Because the truth is, no one can do it all, especially when you’re balancing family life and a busy career. It’s time to come to terms with the fact that you’re not super woman and sacrifices will need to be made, both on the family and professional side, if you want to find balance. Balance comes by setting boundaries and letting go of trying to please everyone all of the time.
Setting boundaries can be difficult since it involves saying ‘no’ to some and ‘yes’ to others. These decisions must be made individually, meaning there is no textbook you can turn to that gives you all of the answers. Personally, as a mom of a 21-year-old daughter and 27-year-old son, I’ve frequently struggled with these decisions from the time my son was born. In fact, if you look at my home bookcase you will find many books on how to achieve work life and family balance. Truth is that there is no single textbook answer to this dilemma – it ultimately comes from you. What works for one may not work for another.
With all of this said, the following are a few learnings I’ve experienced along the way that have proven useful for me.
Let go of guilt and look at the big picture. Setting boundaries may seem simple in the abstract sense, but nothing feels so simple in the moment. When this happens and you’re faced with a decision that needs to be made quickly, determine the issue’s urgency, be honest about your gut feeling, and gauge the support available to you.
What is most urgent? You’ll face situations when you need to choose between multiple important, competing forces that are both personal and professional in nature. When this happens, decide which is most urgent. Is your deadline make or break? Does your child need you now? And if you’re doubting the winner in these two situations – obviously err on the side of your child – they should be the most important priority of your life.
What help can I call on? Identify any resources available when you’re in a crunch. Does your spouse have flexibility today to care for your child? Can you delegate any assignments to coworkers? Do you have other family, friends or colleagues who can step in and ease your burden at a moment’s notice? The adage, “it takes a village to raise a child” is truer than ever in today’s world. Try to build relationships with others to offer mutual support when something unexpected comes up. It’s alright to ask, and it’s important to return the favor when you can.
What are my instincts telling me? Trust your gut feeling. Don’t get consumed by guilt or the pressure of being “super woman.” Trust your instincts and know which way your heart is leading you in each specific instance. Again – if it’s a tie – err on the side of family.
Decide and move forward.
Once you’ve decided where to focus your energy, be present in your choice and don’t second-guess yourself. Let go of guilt, let go of insecurities and forge ahead, trusting your decision. Life as a business owner is a constant balancing act. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that is exciting and rewarding! Be upfront with your family, your children, and your colleagues about your needs and priorities. Accept help, trust your instincts, and succeed!
By Connie Certusi
Connie Certusi is Executive Vice President and General Manager of Small Business Solutions at Sage North America.