Although we strive for the perfect work/life balance, life moves things around for us. In our humanity, we forget things, we overstretch ourselves, we have to make compromises, and sometimes circumstances we can’t control throw us off track. The “perfect” balance isn’t always realistic, so search for a different kind of balance: the kind of balance that allows you to handle a crisis without letting your entire life spiral out of control.
Before I started working with my husband, my job was very stressful. Traffic in Atlanta was bad (even back then!), so the commute alone was exhausting. I would be mentally and emotionally stretched so thin by the time I got home that I would need to take an hour or more just to decompress before I could help my children with their homework, talk with my husband, or otherwise participate in my “home life.” It was a challenge. For me, it wasn’t easy to keep my personal and work life separate, and I couldn’t “leave my problems at the door” as we’re so often told we need to do. We spend so much time at work—40 hours each week for some people, but upwards of 60 hours for many others—that we’re there more often than we are home, and work becomes a part of our personal identity as a result. It gets more complicated when you have someone depending on you, such as children or elderly parents, or if you’re lacking a strong support network. It’s a lot to navigate! Even with all the mental forecasting and planning we do, something can still go wrong or not the way we expected, and our professional and personal lives begin to blend together.
When something does go wrong, emotions can flare up, allowing negativity and self-criticism to cloud our thoughts. Despite this, it’s so important to continue to act as professional and composed as possible in the workplace. You may have coworkers and superiors who are sensitive to when these crises arise, or you may not. In either case, being able to present your concerns and ask for assistance in a clear and professional manner is essential. No matter what our stressed, panicky brains might tell us, someone will want to find a way to help you, and it’s always better to be up-front and effectively communicate before you miss an important meeting or deadline.
In my personal life, I like to keep work and home as separate as possible. Working with my husband maybe makes that easier, since I can pause a work conversation at the dinner table and say “let’s talk about that tomorrow at the office.” But I think that’s important as a business woman who values her time away from work. Your profession will always require a certain amount of your time, so you have every right to carve out and set aside dedicated time for your personal life. Even when my husband and I disagree at work, we don’t want to bring that home and allow it to become a wedge between us. We’re at a place in our marriage where we can put things on the shelf until the appropriate time.
You won’t be able to solve every problem at once, and you don’t need to! Communicating effectively and openly about your needs at both work and home will alleviate some of the stress that comes with trying to split your time between many obligations. Finding the right balance in your life takes time and maturity. Allow yourself that time to learn and mature, and remember to allow the same for the important people in your life too.