There is was...the question that often gets lobbed at successful women....
Christine Barney, CEO and Managing Partner of rbb Communications, saw it coming. As a panelist at The Influential Women of Today event sponsored by MBAF in Miami, she had her answer ready.
"It's not balancing, it's blending," she said "Blending is the important part. Work does not happen between 9 and 5, and personal life does not happen 5 p.m. and after. There are personal things that happen during the day, and work things that will happen at night and weekends. Not just for me but everyone at my firm."
Christine then explained that her Miami public relations firm was built on respect and flexibility.
"Everyone in my firm chooses when, where and how we work. That will be different depending on your situation. I have clients in California that are going to want me at night so I have to be available for that. You have to bend in your mind to say how do I effectively do the things I want to do."
Like most working mothers, Christine tries to be available for her children and her clients. That means blending her two worlds together and determining priorities on a given day. She has a lot to juggle.
"I have three children and I feel like I have three only children," she said. "I have a step daugher who is 35, a daughter who is 18 and a son who is 11. I have had kids my whole life and I will be paying for college until I'm dead. I was homeroom mom two years ago when my son was in second grade. I was the kindergarten art teacher for daughter one year. I am chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in addition to running my businesses."
With all that responsibility on her plate, Christine makes tradeoffs. She says she strives for excellence, not perfection.
"You can't do it all. I could work 24 hours a day and there would still be more to do. So you have to make choices and ask yourself, "What is really important to me? If I want to be homeroom mom, what am I going to give up and what am I going to feel guilty about? I put more guilt on myself than anyone else could put on me."
Of course, like most of us, Christine says her husband complains he is not a priority.
"My husband kids that my priorities are work, the kids, the dog and then him. My priorities shift. Next week my daughter hears from a college. I am not making any appointments that day. She is getting an email in the morning and I will drive to school and be there with her. That's really important to me. Think about in advance what's important to you and don't let others make those decisions for you."
Christine says sometimes, she has to help her employees figure out their priorities.
"They will say I have to go to this or that and I say, "Really? Do you really have to go to that?" I tell them, to look at what's value add for business and there usually is stuff you can cut out. We can't do it all."
And then, Christine reconfirmed her thoughts on work life balance.
"Balance is not the right word. It's blend."
I really like Christine's way of looking at the roles we play. Blend is a great way to describe it.