In my first article regarding this topic, I was very clear that women will never be able to have it all, at least not with our current system. Devoting 100% of ourselves to our careers, children, partners, families, friends, and our personal well being is simply an unrealistic expectation. Yet somehow someone decided to say that balance is in fact attainable, probably to sell us more of something, whatever that something they were selling was. Yet the only time I am able to achieve balance is when I get on my bike and ride on two wheels that would not be able to stand alone without my pedaling help. Yet I was also quickly reminded that not everyone can ride a bike and achieve that balance. As has been documented throughout history and our modern times, only men have been able to achieve the idea of balance. Being able to work, while someone else takes care of his kids. Coming home to dinner, clean clothes, a clean house, and even groceries in the fridge while children run up to you screaming “Hi daddy”, a hero like welcome, only worthy for fathers who have balance in their lives. When they have to work late, someone is always there to help out, when they want to play golf, fish, and even go on a business trip, the support of a woman is always there by his side.
But what about women? Would we ever be able to attain the balance everyone is pushing us to achieve while never being able to have all the support we need?
As a professional, single mother of three, I can address this from personal experience and failures. My children are ages 24, 11, and 9, a big gap, that can only be translated as a big learning opportunity.
For me, support from my employer the past 15 years has been the key to my success. Although I would not say I am remotely close to achieving balance, as I am still juggling balls on a daily basis and dropping them left and right too, I know the man that signs my paychecks has been willing to provide the support I needed to not only run his business but be present in my children’s life, run out of the office without penalties or even raising a brow when school calls, and he encourages and at times sends me on a much needed day off with pay when I’m feeling run down. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have my boss and not everyone is fortunate enough to have employers willing and able to be your support.
But my boss is the only one helping, the rest of the world, organizations, and communities around me are not.
One of the most infuriating things I encounter every three months or so is an email for a breakfast meeting notification that starts at 7:30am, whichever organization decides to do one that quarter. I literally cringe, not only because I never eat the food they serve, but because even when I drop off my kids to school the earliest I can possibly take them, it is still not early enough to make a 7:30am breakfast meeting. Which simply means I either have to make the choice of not going or never making it to the event on time.
I could just that one morning rely on my husband right? Oh wait! I don’t have one- I left him because he is an alcoholic and was truly no help either. I could ask my friends who also have kids — oh wait! There’s no way they can come pick up my kids early enough to wake up their own kids, get them fed, and ready for school either.
The majority of those breakfast meetings are filled with men, married men with children whose support allows them to be there on time.
My choices as a professional single woman with children are clear, don’t go or arrive late. The latter is usually me.
And don’t get me started on after hours events, travel sports, school schedules with extra after school expense, and the unsustainable, unfulfilling, and cash flow poor life it provides- all while everyone is pretending they are living their best life.
Here are a handful of tips I incorporate into my life to juggle the mom balls I have:
- I take my children with me to certain after hour events. You better believe it! If you want me to attend a 5:30 or 6pm gathering, my children are coming with me. They are old enough to behave, they will get a feel for what it is like to network and work late. I will show the world what it is like to be a working mom and how my kids and I make things happen together.
- I am very selective of the events I attend. If it is not a hell yes then it is a hell no. I ask myself, what am I getting out of this? Do I need to meet someone specific? Do I need to be seen as part of it? Do I need to show up to support a friend or a colleague? What value does this event provide to me and is my presence needed? What will I learn?
- If my children can help me, I put them to work. This allows me to show them a bit of my world while being able to finalize some emails, calls, or texts along the way. My children have written bank deposits, filed documents, inspected some properties, and even torn out a floor in a unit or two.
- I use every second of my day in a productive way. I line up my meetings with 15 minutes breaks in between. I often have them in the same place so I am not driving from place to place, saving precious time along the way.
- When my kids are practicing sports or attending their extracurricular activities I never waste that precious time. I use it to either finish up work or exercise while they do theirs. I never just sit in my car and wait. Always have extra clothes and shoes in your car.
While as women and mothers balance is not attainable, having a supportive employer is a great place to start. If you are an employer, ask yourself how are you helping the working mothers in your organization? Most of us feel terrible asking for help because we see it as special privileges, however an organization run by busy mothers is better than one run by people who only have the ability and borderline privilege to focus on only one thing at a time. If you are a working mother, find little things you can do to lessen the guilt and burden you feel every day. Remember, not every woman wants the same things.
To be continued……..
March 5, 2020.