Juggling is a skill requiring synchrony, as one has to simultaneously toss and catch objects while keeping them in constant motion.
A juggler needs to maintain careful balance and distance between objects because if compromised, the juggler risks dropping them all. Individuals often make juggling look easy, as they seemingly fling objects effortlessly into the air. Contrarily, juggling actually takes a significant amount of concentration, mental acuity, and practice.
For young women of the Millennial generation, life has become synonymous with a complex juggling act, as they attempt to simultaneously toss, catch, and balance their careers, marriages, and children.
Evolved expectations and responsibilities
The expectations and responsibilities of women have significantly evolved during the last century. In the early 20th century, women stereotypically held the role of homemaker, which primarily focused on child-rearing, caring for their husbands, and maintaining their homes.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, an increasing number of women began to enter the workforce, and thus traditional gender roles as we knew it was permanently blurred.
Presently, more women are in the workforce than ever before and are still attempting to identify, navigate, and solidify roles. They are trying to do it all, as they attempt to have babies, raise a family, care for husbands, maintain houses, and somehow incorporate it into career expectations and job responsibilities.
Hence, the convoluted juggling acts.
Chasing the elusive goal of maintaining work-life balance
Work-life balance has become the elusive goal, the Holy Grail of the 21st century. I hate to break it to you, but the concept of work-life balance is nothing more than an illusion, a mirage, a fantasy that will never come to fruition.
Balance signifies harmony and equality between its components and there will never be an exact balance between work and family.
There is no way that women can equally divide their time, energy, and attention to both components on a daily basis. Because of this, women constantly have the perception that they are failing. They cannot excel and move forward in their careers while raising polite and well-mannered children.
They cannot keep their homes clean, have the laundry done, and have hot dinner waiting when their husbands arrive home. No, instead, they are drinking cold coffee as they desperately try to get their kids out the door, while making it to work on time.
As they are running out, they grab book bags and briefcases, while tripping over toys and shoes. It is only when they are halfway to work, do they remember that they forgot to take the meat out to defrost for dinner. In other words, they are juggling too many balls and dropping them all over the place.
It is important for women to reframe the term work-life balance and come to grips with the fact that it is never going to happen. Instead, women need to figure out a way to assimilate work with life in a simultaneous fashion, without the pressure of achieving equilibrium between them.
Work and life should not be considered mutually exclusive
Work and life should be thought of as a fluid concept, constantly intertwining and connecting with each other.
On certain days, more effort and energy will be exerted into the area of life needing it most. If there is an important deadline, presentation, or promotion at work, exertion will be placed into the career. If your kid is in the school play and needs help studying for an upcoming math test, the focus will naturally shift to your children.
If the dirty dishes are perilously hanging over the edge of the sink and you are on your last pair of clean underwear, attention will divert to the house. If you cannot remember when your last date night was, or when you were last, intimate with your husband, focus and effort will swap to the marriage.
In essence, women should be empowered to control where their energy and attention lie on a given day. There is no right or wrong way to incorporate aspects of life together. There will be moments when you will have it all under control when everything will go right. There will also be moments where nothing is under control and you are left waving a white flag in a humble display of defeat.
These are the days where you will find yourself sending important work emails at 10:00 pm, screaming at your children to go to sleep while eating a nutritious dinner from the Ben & Jerry’s carton. (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there!)
In addition to permanently discarding work-life balance terminology from your vocabulary, we offer you five more tips to help you keep all balls safely in the air.
1. Say goodbye to guilt
Cleanse your soul by releasing guilt.
Do not feel guilty that your child is in daycare while you are working, or feel bad that you cannot make it to their first soccer game. It is important to come to peace with your decisions and recognize the important value and benefit that comes from your employment.
For months, I grappled with intense guilt for signing my kids up for three days of preschool when they were two years old. I felt terrible that I was away from them for so long, especially when they were so young. Then, one day it hit me; they were at preschool for less than three hours and were simultaneously being afforded valuable socialization and learning opportunities. Why was I feeling so guilty?
At that moment, I discarded my guilt and exchanged it for peace and gratitude. Similarly, I challenge you to release your guilt and allow your heart to be set free.
2. Communicate with your employer
It is important to establish a forum of open communication with your employer so that you can negotiate what you need and when you need it. Employers know that content employees have higher levels of job satisfaction and work productivity than their unhappy counterparts.
If your employer is invested in your retention, they should be willing to negotiate and work with you. Talk to your employer about flexible scheduling or time off if you feel that it would improve your daily existence. Be prepared to present how this arrangement would not infringe on job responsibilities or deter overall performance.
3. Do not neglect your marriage
It is important to make your marriage a top priority.
Schedule recurrent date nights with your husband so that you can connect, establish intimacy, and enjoy untainted time together without interruption. Ensure that your husband feels like he is a priority and ensure that you both have fun and laugh often.
Investing time, energy, and effort into your marriage is an important protective factor in its longevity.
4. Quality family time daily
Similar to marriage, family needs to be at the top of your priority list. Family time should be instituted every day so that you can bond with your children and nurture the family as a whole.
Attempt to incorporate togetherness and quality time on a daily basis. In my household, my four-year-old twins know that every night, we “eat like a family.” During this time, it is understood that television and electronic distractions are eliminated, while we eat together in the dining room.
The quiet calm encourages conversation amongst us and admittedly, is the time of day that I cherish and look forward to the most.
I encourage you to incorporate family time into your daily routine, whether reading with your children before bedtime, cooking dinner as a family, or watching a television show together.
I imagine that it too will become the time of day that you look forward to the most.
It is imperative to schedule “me” time on a daily or weekly basis.
If self-care is not incorporated into your daily routine, you will become burnt out, resentful, and inefficient. You cannot give, or take care of others if you have nothing left to give. Take time to rejuvenate and recharge via a hobby, exercise routine, or interest.
Do whatever “fills you”, whether it is reading, taking a bubble bath, or going to bed early. I can assure you that it will be a hell of a lot easier to juggle all the balls if you are emotionally, mentally, and physically well. And if you drop the balls, who really cares? You can just pick them all up again tomorrow.