Following a keynote speech on creating a unique customer experience, I was approached by a guest who asked “How do you do it?”
As I started re-summarizing my speech she interrupted and said, “No, no, no – How do you balance your work and home life? You seem like you have it so together!!
I have been asked that question endless times and as my career advanced to the corner office – men and women – became even more inquisitive.
The truth is – my answer has always been the same: there is no such thing as “balance”. Life is not a zero sum game or an equation that needs to be solved. You do not have to choose between being a great wife and mother and being a career woman. The answers that you are looking for are not in some magic checklist, but rather within yourself, if you will just take the time to look for them. But you also must have the confidence to reach for them and believe they’ll be there.
In the last few weeks this subject is being talked about in every office, home, blog and media outlet. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has taken the conversation to a whole new level and kudos to her! She is encouraging women to participate, raise their hand and “lean in”. I know many women who do just that – but they still go home at night and grade themselves a “C” for their performance at work and home. Erin Callen, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers, in her New York Times article, shared her heartfelt story of how she “leaned in” too much and forgot who she was.
Neither answered the question “How can I have success at work and home?” I couldn’t take the mother out of the career or the career out of the mother and I don’t think you should either. You can use both to your advantage.
Searching for the mythical “balance” leads to frustration, guilt and disappointment – causing career women to step back or step out of their company. At one point I believed that I could not go on anymore, my career was demanding and my two boys needed me, I must choose one or the other. I loved my work, my husband and my children and I could not find peace with it all.
What I needed was one life and one calendar! So, that is what I did. I integrated, instead of bifurcated. I took my home skills to the office and I took my office skills home. Yes, I took my boys to the office on Sunday morning when nobody was there and yes, I sometimes had strategy meetings in my house.
You really can’t have success in one area of your life without having success in the others. Above all, make your home life a priority. If your personal life is a mess, you’ll never be your best at work.
Stop striving for “balance” and live! It is ok if the kids order out pizza once a week and you send store-bought cupcakes to the school event. You can also turn off the I-Phone for an hour, work will still be there.
Teresa Taylor is the former COO of Qwest Communications and author of a new book The Balance Myth – Rethinking Work-Life Success. To learn more visit: http://www.teresataylor.org
Life Balance Signpost courtesy of Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net