Do you feel guilty when you drop your child off at daycare and head into the office? Do you hate that you have to miss your daughter's school concert because you have a business trip? Or perhaps you cringe when you get the tennis team schedule, knowing you'll have to miss three matches next month because you need to work late to prep for a presentation.
Rita Johnson-Greene, Head of US Commercial Operations for Spark Therapeutics in Philadelphia, and mom of an 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old daughter, shares tips for balancing work and home life.
Enjoy being a working woman. Sipping your coffee on the way to work. Chatting with colleagues about This Is Us around the water cooler. Enjoy these simple pleasures that working life gives you. "Before your children were born, you were a professional woman, who enjoyed the competitive and achievement-oriented stimuli that work brings to your life," says Johnson-Greene. "That professional drive doesn't die. Your life has been enriched by a child/children and the same passion-filled person with amazing ideas still lives within you."
Know you're lucky. It may not seem like it at times, but you're fortunate to have a family. Many people would love the gift that you have. Take a step back and appreciate the fact that you can experience life as a mom.
Pick your battles. Stay at daycare 10 minutes longer in the morning and work 10 minutes longer at night if your daughter has a crying fit at Monday morning drop-off. But if you're asked to attend a class party on the day that new clients are coming to the office, see if you can help out with another soiree in a few months.
Think outside the box. Is the guilt eating away at you? Put in for a vacation day, pull your son out of kindergarten for the day and spend the day together. Be sure to put your phone down so you can enjoy one another's company. If you can't sneak in a day off, see if you can head out early to enjoy a few hours at the park together. And the next time your child is home sick or school is canceled for snow, try to really relish spending time together.
It's OK to be sad and feel guilty. Shed a tear that you have to miss your child's band concert. You can be upset you're not there to help your daughter study for her big math test. By acknowledging your feelings, hopefully you'll also appreciate what you're gaining by working. "I communicate my work commitments to the children on a regular basis," says Johnson-Greene. "I ask them what's most important to attend at school and set that tone that I won't make it to everything. The girls and I agree on what's most important and I strive to attend those activities, plus a few surprise pop-ups. This keeps them pleasantly surprised." She owns up to those times when she's not being there. "If I miss something that was on the 'Don't miss list,' I apologize, give a hug and explains why. Living life will include disappointments," she says. "My unexpected absence, at times, will be one of them."
Let things go. Some things can slide so that you can spend time with your family. Maybe you hire a cleaning person, as does Johnson-Greene, to keep your house spic and span. "I prioritize personal and family time over cleaning," she says. Or perhaps you order takeout because you're just too tired to cook. Decline a Sunday morning birthday party invite so you can spend some time snuggling in bed with your child. "I absolutely say 'No' for sanity sake," she says. "Even the kids appreciate a clear calendar. Technology has made it impossible to truly check out or disconnect. You must deliberately carve out family time and be relentless about not giving it up."
Don't let the pressure get to you. You feel pressure to work more hours. You feel pressure to volunteer more at school. You feel pressure to make more play dates, more homemade meals. You can't do it all. Don't let the guilt get to you. Know that you're doing the best you can.
Delegate and make it fun. Johnson-Greene says her kids have asked her about helping with laundry. "It still seems like fun to them," she says. She started out by putting signs in the laundry room to help them sort clothing and then checked their work. Now, they can wash their clothing with minimal assistance. "It helps out a ton," she says. They also help with cooking. "It was a bit time-consuming at first, but it has been a huge time-saver once we got into a groove," she says. "We add some music and then a simple cooking chore is transformed into a dinner dance-off."
Rely on your village. Turn to loved ones and friends when you can't be there. Johnson-Greene has sent her mother, sister and best friend to many events on her behalf. "I firmly believe in the village and I'm so thankful for mine," she says. "Our village includes our Church, which strengthens our family life and reminds us to focus on what is truly important in life."
Prioritize fiercely. Make room for what's important. "If there are key events at home that I must attend, I block my calendar and work outside core business hours to deliver my professional responsibilities," she says. "I'll also carve out home time during busy seasons at work." Realize, though, that sometimes things don't work out as planned. "There's always tomorrow," she says. She also always make sure her family attends church together on Sundays. Faith is a large part of her life. "That's where my centeredness comes from," she says. "I believe that I can rise above the guilt and expectations of others when I know that I serve a higher purpose."