By Tricia Sciortino, President of eaHELP
Working on Black Friday, Christmas, and New Year’s Day didn’t used to be a big deal to me when I was starting my career. But that was before I had a family.
Many women feel the pressure to always be available to their work, and — although it may come as a surprise — this demand doesn’t change once you decide to settle down. In fact, it only exacerbates the struggle for work-life balance. This truth can mean different things to different women, but what it doesn’t have to mean is that you’ve got to be buried under guilt in order to fight the ongoing battle for your time.
I poured myself into my career as a young professional, became a stay-at-home mom, returned to work part-time as I raised my family, and then began working full-time from home as the first employee for the company of which I’m now president. With the lessons from this very full journey in mind, here are the top five tips I’ve learned to help me have a thriving career and family life…without the guilt:
1. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel for Family Scheduling.
Your kids likely receive their entire school schedule when classes commence in the fall. Work this system to your advantage. I block off time to sit down and load all of my kids’ days off into my own calendar. This way, I don’t have to do any thinking or make hard choices. It’s all done for me — they’ve got Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day off? Simple: I’ll be taking PTO those days. Not only does this help to sync schedules quickly and with plenty of advance notice, but it also ensures that you won’t be piling up all of your PTO for the end of the year. Quality time with family will be spaced out during the entire year rather than forced into an inconvenient chunk at the end.
2. Integrate Family Time Regularly into Your Week.
Another systematic way to set yourself up for quality family time without the brain-strain is to incorporate specific blocks of space into your normal schedule. For example, when my daughter comes home from school every day I take half of my lunch hour to spend time with her. This allows us to have a designated touchpoint with time to connect before we’re both off in different directions. We use that time in our daily schedules to get her settled in with a snack and talk about what homework she has for the afternoon. Something as simple as blocking off a half hour to relate on a regular basis gives us the time we need to bond and set the groundwork for keeping her focused and on track.
3. Use PTO Wisely — And Use it!
Paid time off doesn’t have to be specially planned for a big trip in order to be special. Instead of saving it for a rainy day, I use PTO for simple things like visiting my kids at school, having lunch with them in the cafeteria, and attending their performances. These simple uses of PTO go a long way because while I’m enjoying quality time with my children, I’m also able to stay connected with their school and teachers.
4. Don’t Keep It All in Your Head.
It’s a fun fact we all learn as we develop into adults: if it’s scheduled/blocked out/ written down, it’s much more likely to happen. Don’t waste your time on “It’ll happen” thinking. Let’s face it – it never does. I plan my entire year at once in advance. Sounds a bit extreme, but it’s true — and ultimately effective. I currently have a 2016 calendar with all of my trips for both work and personal time laid out. Of course, it’s naturally a work in progress as things shift throughout the year, but I have a good idea of my time off and when I’ll be where.
5. Don’t Multitask the Important Stuff.
I’m a better mom to my kids when I’m fulfilled by what I’m doing during the day while they’re gone. I did have to learn the hard way, however, that trick is to be fully invested in what you’re doing in the moment — whether working or spending time with family — and not try to do both at once. I knew my work was overlapping my personal life too far when my 5-year-old started asking me what time I “finished” work and why I was still typing away. Fortunately, I don’t hear that question anymore. It took work to set boundaries, but what boundaries really came down to was planning ahead; I now make sure to prep for the day in a way that allows me to unplug after 5 p.m. and carve out undistracted time to be with my children.
As women in America, we’re told we can have it all — and we can. Just make sure that “all” doesn’t include guilt.
Tricia Sciortino is the President of eaHELP. She joined eaHELP in November 2010 as a virtual assistant and first employee of the company. She has a background in senior retail management, including experience overseeing a team of more than 150 employees, and supporting senior leaders in the church construction industry.