As someone whose dad was a hard-working CEO, I grew up thinking it was normal for at least one parent to miss games, recitals, and the like. It didn’t seem odd that my father couldn’t be around for every function or event—that was just the way the world worked.
I only recall complaining once (when I was 4 years old, mind you) about him being absent on weekends. To his credit, that youthful chastising spurred him to rearrange his hectic travel schedule to free up most Saturdays and Sundays.
Today, the tables have turned. I’m the CEO, raising daughters without a partner or nearby family. I see the world in a different light because I’m on the other side. Like my father, I struggle with the guilt that comes from knowing that I can’t be everywhere at once. Am I ignoring my kids because I have to attend a late-night meeting? Have I neglected my executive duties to attend an afternoon soccer practice?
There aren’t any clear-cut answers, and that’s probably why working women (especially those in leadership positions) are so hard on themselves. But children thrive when they see their parents being human, honing their talents, and realizing their dreams—all while making mistakes.
Instead of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you have the confidence to know where to focus your attention at a given moment.
The Ups and Downs of Balancing It All
Co-workers, clients, bosses, and friends might call you “superwoman” because you’re raising kids and taking on the corporate world. In reality, you’re like a duck in a pond: You might seem calm and collected on the surface, but you’re paddling frantically beneath the water. It’s all about reaching and maintaining that elusive thing called “balance.”
Take it from me when I say balance is a journey rather than a destination. It’s OK to give those webbed feet a rest while you float for a change. Better yet, let others see beneath the surface by showing that you’re less perfect than they assume.
Sound scary? One of the biggest realizations I’ve made is that it’s safe for me to be honest about my daily work-life juggling act—particularly with my kids. I want my kids to know that when I’m not out having fun while I’m away from them. Sure, I enjoy the occasional work trip, but they’re hardly vacations.
In the same vein, I’ve started to bring some of my most effective work habits home to make more time for my kids—and show them valuable skills. Delegation is the most important tool in my arsenal. I don’t hesitate to delegate tasks to experienced team members, so why shouldn’t I do the same thing at home? Whether my daughters or someone else takes on added responsibilities, the important thing is making room for more together time.
My “tribe” of women friends, many of whom I met through female-focused groups such as the Women Presidents’ Organization, helped me realize the importance of delegation. We all face similar challenges, and these groups enable us to share tips and troubles. A group like that can talk you down when you feel like you’re a terrible parent because you missed a track meet. It’s much healthier to cry on a sympathetic shoulder than it is to run yourself into the ground, after all.
Taking Time for Family
If you spend hours fretting about the way your career hinders parenting, it’s time to rid yourself of the “I should be able to do it all” mindset. Instead of concentrating on the perceived negatives, capitalize on the positive aspects of your working lifestyle.
My guess is that you may have more work-related or financial flexibility and freedom than you realize. Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities to spend time with your family. Perhaps you can work from home on occasional snow days, or you could maybe take time off to go on an “unplugged” trip with your family. More importantly, you probably don’t have to answer those emails or Slack messages immediately. I know it’s hard to permit yourself to unplug, but I’ve found that most communique can wait while you enjoy a family dinner or go to a swim meet.
At the end of the day, my kids don’t think I’m a horrible mother. They love me even though we sometimes have to rely on FaceTime to say goodnight. Plus, they seem to get a kick out of being able to spot my company’s products on the shelves or in their friends’ houses. Rather than a hindrance, I’ve come to see my work as a source of pride for my family.
Remember, there’s no shame in asking for help. Delegating tasks can take extra work off your shoulders. Even better, it can give you more time to spend with the people you care about. Your children know much you love them—it’s time to show them that you don’t have to be superwoman to be a super mom who’s dedicated to balancing work and family.