Balancing My Lives

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Somebody asked me recently for books on how to balance our professional and personal lives. I couldn’t recommend any in particular that focused on that specific subject, I’m sorry to say. But that got me thinking. How do I balance my lives?

Before I tell you what I think about this, let me explain that I will write as a woman but everything I say could also apply to men. Quite a lot of men have great difficulties balancing their professional and personal lives. Most don’t know how to enjoy or find time for their personal lives, for example. So everything I write here could be used by both, males and females.

This is what I learned from life so far:

1. Superwomen

Many years ago I was one of the simultaneous interpreters working at a conference on feminism. And while I was repeating what the speaker was saying, I realized we were talking about me. The speaker was saying that women are their worst enemies when trying to balance both lives because it’s not society, it’s not their husbands, it’s not their children who ask them to be the perfect employees, mothers, wives, cooks, nurses, housekeepers, organizers, all in one, but themselves. Many of us, women, believe in the old roles that our mothers had in the past: when the man arrives home, dinner should be ready and on the table, the kids should be looking great and the meal should be delicious. Not to mention that we should look ravishing. By repeating what that person was saying I realized I was one of those women. I would do my work (quite a demanding one, as you know) and then run home to make sure everything was perfect and beautiful for my family. Which meant getting up before anybody else and working non-stop until finally dropping onto my bed to sleep much later than the rest of the family.

And it wasn’t so because my husband or anybody else asked me to do it. But because I chose to. When I first started sharing my life with my husband I thought that was the way things worked. It was meant to be like that. That was my belief. But that conference opened my eyes to the fact that we were both working full-time and shared a home and children. Why, then, had I taken it upon myself to become a superwoman and do it all?

That weekend I had a conversation with my husband and told him about the conference. He agreed with me! He realized that he’d taken the easy, comfortable way of letting me do it all and hadn’t given it a second thought.

Think, for instance, of those days in which one of the kids gets sick. Who takes the child to the doctor? Mostly women, right? Why? Just because. 🙂

It’s therefore very important to have a long, relaxed conversation with the other members of the family to see what beliefs they have. It’s only then that we can discuss how to balance things better. Sometimes, our beliefs lead us to doing things that make us suffer. Once we discover those beliefs, they can be changed.

So the first step in trying to balance our lives is questioning our beliefs. What do I believe that makes me live this way?

2. Facilitate and simplify

Based upon that discovery I then decided to simplify whatever I could in my life. For instance, I decided then and there that I would never again cook any dishes that required more than 15 minutes of my work. If they required more, they’d be saved for very special occasions (when I felt like making them as a treat) or for restaurant outings. That didn’t include baking or boiling time. Only my active working time.

Such a little, silly rule immediately made my life so much easier!

My family learned that we share our lives and, as such, they should also contribute to our general well-being. I learned to delegate quite a few things and to just stop doing others.

The second step is then to ask yourself what can be done in an easier, simpler way and what doesn’t need to be done at all.

3. Goal Setting

I also questioned my role as a professional woman, of course. What do I want to achieve? What are my professional goals? Do I want to spend my life working just because I enjoy it so much or am I trying to reach a greater level or position? Am I working very long hours because the job requires it or because I believe I should?

Questioning our professional motives also helps us see that we sometimes want to be the Superwoman at work as well. We want to be better than our male colleagues because we feel somehow challenged by the working environment. But the question should not be what do they expect from me but rather what do I want from myself.

Deciding what professional goals we really have will make things clearer and a bit easier for us.

Do you have a clear goal or are you just climbing the ladder because that’s what you’re supposed to do?

The third step therefore questions your working beliefs and goals.

4. Re-balancing

The last step is quite straightforward. Once you understand your own beliefs and the reasons behind your actions, you get to choose how you want to live. Adaptations might have to be done and new arrangements might be required but don’t forget that this is your life that we’re talking about. And life is to be enjoyed!!!!

Decide what makes you happy and which beliefs are hindering or plainly damaging you. Set your goals and discuss everything with your family to find a way to reach them. The first step is always knowing what our reality is really like. Once you know it, you can change it. If you don’t know it, how could you alter it?

Understand your reality, then, and define how you want it to become. Then go for it.

I hope these four basic tips help you.

Enjoy life… all of it, J.