Have you ever had a work life balance meltdown?
I had one years ago when my daughter was an infant. I was stuck in horrendous traffic on the commute home, and the realization hit me that another night was going to go by without my tucking her into bed. As my sitter held the phone next to her ear so I could say goodnight over my cell phone, the tears cascaded down my cheeks. I must have looked like such a crazy woman behind the wheel.
Sometimes, a good cry is all it takes to make a change. Sometimes, it's just an acknowledgment of the sacrifices that go with balancing work and family.
Recently when a group of professionals joined together on a panel called “Having It All: Balancing Work and Family/Parenting and Working 24/7” at the NALP conference, National Association for Law Placement) a few shed tears over their work life balance struggles.
DAVID LAT writes: One panelist got choked up when confessing that they missed their child’s second birthday due to a business trip. An audience member had a hard time finishing a question because she was overwhelmed by emotion when discussing her struggles as a single parent.
The panelists had lots of advice for fellow working parents. Lat shared their tips on the Above the Law blog and I in turn, am sharing them with you.
- Get a good calendaring program and give your work team access to it so they will know when you are unavailable.
- If you travel, check out apps like Facetime or Skype, which can help you stay in touch with your family.
- Still on the technology front, if you’re an iPhone user, take advantage of the note- and list-making functions. You can prepare and update lists on the fly — think to do lists, grocery lists — and message them to others (like your spouse, if he or she is making the grocery trip that you usually cover).
- You’d be amazed at what you can learn from YouTube. Kielbasa, who adopted her youngest daughter from Ethiopia, learned African hair braiding through online videos.
- Consider blogging as a way of keeping relatives and friends up to date on your child (instead of sending mass emails or flooding Facebook with kiddie pics).
- If you need party favors or gifts and want to go the handmade route, but don’t have time to make them yourself, you can buy such items on Etsy.
- When getting to have a child, whether a biological child or an adoptive child, think ahead about vacation. Try to save as much vacation time in advance if you can.
- And think ahead and plan ahead about insurance benefits, child care, and navigating your workplace after returning from giving birth. (For example, does your family have a mothers’ lounge or lactation room?)
- Accept that you can no longer be the “go to” person for everything at the office. Figure out the areas that are essential to your professional identity or “brand,” and let go of the rest.
(These are the panelists: Michele Ward, Attorney Resources & Recruitment Manager, Winston & Strawn LLP, Moderator; Mike Gotham, Director of Attorney Recruiting and Retention, Perkins Coie LLP;Stacey M. Kielbasa, Director of Professional Development, Attorney Recruitment, and Diversity, Chapman and Cutler LLP; Malini Nangia, Director of Career Services, UCLA School of Law)
Figuring out how best to balance life and work usually is a process of trial and error. Most of us have learned that it's helpful to trade notes and find out what has worked for others. It may even save you some tears.