What It Means To Balance Work And Family

I previously shared some of my thoughts on what it means to balance work and a young family, and why that’s meant I’ve felt like I’ve lost my way as a project manager.

I got a lot of emails in response to that.

It seems like everyone is struggling in their own way, although the challenges are common.

This ‘mom who has been there’ said:

My heart goes out to you. My daughter is in the same boat and it is hard. Three things we have found that might help.

First: Exercise – It will give you more energy and focus. Sounds crazy when you are so busy and exhausted – but it works.

Second: Nutrition – Stress and lack of sleep are hard on the body. Have tried all sorts of supplements and this one makes the most difference, IntraMax liquid. 1 T morning and afternoon and you will be alert and ready to go.

Third: Delegate (Outsource)– Anything you can personally get help with, do. Housework, laundry, grocery shopping. I used to hire a pre-teen to play with the kids for a few hours. We all enjoyed it.

It gets better and easier.

I have onboarded a new team member to help out with managing the blog and my self-employed business, so I’m taking steps to delegate and get help.

This reader made me realize that it’s just as important to look out for the moments of clarity and to remember them as the moments where it’s all falling apart:

I often feel spread too thin and not able to do any one thing super well, or with a great deal of thought behind it. But every once in a while I find a state of grace where I feel the ground under me and the ability to put some thought into what I’m doing and produce (or be part of the production of) something great.

This mother made me question why more people don’t talk about the challenges of working and parenting at the same time. Is it because we’re scared of what our bosses might think if they knew how little sleep we’d had and how we’ve spent the first 20 minutes of what should be a work-from-home day dealing with toddlers who have just scribbled with chalk all over the dining room walls? (Yes, that actually happened a few weeks ago.)

It’s hard for women in professional spheres to admit when they’re having a rough go of it! And when we hear other women coming clean and saying, Whew, parenting and working is hard,” we want to leap out of our chairs and say, “Yes!! Thank you for saying it! It really is!”

I can say that, with my kids being 18 months apart, the first 4-5 years were the absolute hardest. Exhausting and adorable and amazing and somewhat of a blur, too, sadly, probably because of the lack of sleep!

And, it really does get easier. Not easy. But easier by like a mile, once you get your sleep back. It will happen soon.

Yep. Looking forward to that.

One of the most insightful responses came from this reader:

Your role sounds a lot like mine. I moved from a corporate project manager role to a programe coordination role where a PMO does not exist. I do lots of coaching, [internal] consultancy, I develop and publish the Project/program management framework with guidelines and templates. I also manage the projects that no one else wants to because they are too small, too boring or too risky.

It seems like this was just the natural progression from pure project management to a strategic role with strong project management skills and experience. I am starting to realize that pure project management of the exciting projects is something I need to leave for the less experience staff and I am of more value to the organization being a good role model for project management and program management. I spend a lot of time observing and formulating good advice. Isn’t that what you a really good at?

The question for you is “where do you bring the most value to your organization?” Maybe you offer better value to your organization doing something other than “pure” project management.

Maybe I do. His words made me totally rethink my role and the value I add to the team, in a positive way, and I hope they help some of you too.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch. Before I sign off for today, I wanted to give the last words to this reader because her email really moved me. I think it perfectly sums up the struggle of working parents and the guilt of motherhood:

Thank you for the honesty in this post–it’s definitely something I needed today. With two elementary-age children and a newborn at home, I’m actually starting to believe that I can’t juggle it all (and becoming exhausted by the expectation that just because, as a woman, I can do it all, means that I should.) Being an independent contractor I barely took a maternity leave and now I’m drowning in a multi-million dollar project that requires way more hands on deck than I’ve been given.

[I’m] trying not to let it stifle my confidence. I know I’m good what I do, it just kills me that I feel like I can’t be at the top of my game in both my professional life and my personal one. As I type this, I’m staring at my 2-month old daughter hoping that she never feels the need to choose between her career and her family.


SaveThis article first appeared in 2016.