In 2013, before ‘breaking the internet’ became a trend, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, hit the headlines when she revealed that she made the deliberate decision early on in her career to leave work at 5:30pm every day, so she could go spend time with her family. It’s a habit she had exercised for seven years yet she only got the courage to speak about it in 2013.
Many applauded her move as forward-looking saying it would go a long way in encouraging employers to understand the need for work-life balance. However, just a few years earlier, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, also caused a stir when she declined to take maternity leave until the birth of her son and went back to work only two weeks after childbirth.
The truth is, there is no one perfect formula on how to raise a family and for women especially, there just never seems to be enough time to please everybody (and not for lack of trying). While many people think the perfect work-life balance means one has to split the time between home and the office equally, at one point or another, one will be forced to put in more time at the office than at home and other times, the reverse will be true.
While personal career growth and parenting are important in their own right, a lot of people will take time to strategise, prioritise, delegate and plan ahead for their career growth but will not do the same for their families. For a healthy life, there is need to create a sense of balance for both.
A number of studies have shown that children thrive on family rituals such as shared meals, one-on-one interaction with their parents and informal time where spontaneous action such as play can occur. For this to happen, you have to make a deliberate decision to schedule time for the same. Analyse your work schedule and decide what is urgent and what is not.
You may be unable to leave work early every day but is it also necessary to stay late every day? Speak to your boss and articulate your concerns. Do you need an extra hand in your department? Is your workload unevenly divided and in need of delegation?
Once at home, make the deliberate decision to switch off the TV and phones to make time for one-on-one interaction with minimal distractions. Make family activities a priority and plan around them rather than fitting them in at the end of the day or week when you are tired. Additionally, seek help. Speak to your spouse and find out how to split time or support each other when either one is busy.
When all else fails, then ask yourself which is more important: family or career and just how far are you willing to sacrifice for the same. That should guide you on how to move forward.