How can I juggle the demands of work and family?
Personal & Professional Growth mentor Jennifer Lawton responds:
It's difficult to balance work and home life. We all must find our own way to do so, but I believe it can be boiled down to some basics.
Entrepreneurs -- even those running multimillion-dollar enterprises -- need to understand the raison d'ê tre behind the business. It's important to ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" Every day you need to find an answer to this question. Until you have the why, it's hard to find the balance.
Once you have the why, it's important to tally the priorities and "must-haves" in life. What do you want? Is it time to spend alone, with a spouse, kids, dog, extended family? How important is it? What are your own boundaries? How strictly are you willing to enforce your own "rules"?
I have some important rules that I try to live by:
- Work won't make me lose my family. If it gets to the point where my family is unhappy, the job goes.
- I want to be able to retire (or not work a 9-to-5 job) by the time I am 40.
- When I am not traveling, I am home for dinner three nights a week and on weekends.
- Weekends are for home -- not work.
- Work happens at work, not at home. If it happens at home, it has to be either a) an emergency or b) after the kids are asleep.
- I check up on mail, phone messages, etc., after I catch up at home, not when I just walk in.
- I am a parent, and school events go into my calendar. I make it a point to attend recitals, plays, birthday parties, and teacher conferences.
A lot of people try other things -- quarterly meetings with their spouse, life plans, spousal vacations, etc. Do whatever works for you. For example, I try hard to keep in good contact with home -- which is not easy since I travel so much. The solution? My family has my cell phone and beeper number so they can reach me whenever they need to. I also have AOL Instant Messenger and e-mail communication with my husband and kids and e-mail to my extended family.
I've also found that it's OK to explain my priorities to clients and employers. They have families and similar issues, so they can understand your need for balancing work and home.
Balance is hard, but it's much harder if you give yourself grief over falling in and out of balance. The key indicator is the "in and out" versus "out" part. If you find yourself always out of balance, you probably need to reset your expectations or work on new rules and discipline.
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