In trying to balance the demands of work and family, sometimes women fall into the trap of trying to do it all – taking care of the kids, the house, the shopping as well as earning a living. Having it all doesn’t mean doing it all. In fact, doing it all is a recipe for exhaustion. And what’s the point? Why did you make the investment in your education and career progression if you then take full charge of all the domestic responsibilities as well?
To fully reap the benefits of your investment, you need to build a strong team around you. It’s no different from your professional life – the best results come from collaboration rather than isolation and it’s more fun. Delegate and share responsibility with your other half, the childcare provider, and the kids. Yes, the kids. The sooner they learn to be part of a team and chip in the better. If you still need support, think about getting outside help. It will be worth every penny.
I know from experience that this formula works. When I was first married (over two decades ago) I started ironing my husband’s shirts. After a couple of months it dawned on me that there was a huge opportunity cost for taking on this responsibility. It made a lot more economic sense to attend night courses to improve my earning power in my career rather than be attached to an iron. I don’t like ironing. I like studying. The funny thing is, my husband didn’t expect me to iron his shirts. Why do we women do this to ourselves? I suspect that I, like many women, sometimes fall into the trap of following old habits even though the world of women and work has changed dramatically over the last forty years.
A few months ago I was explaining to a male colleague that I had just written a book about how to successfully balance career and family. He was very excited about the idea and was eager to share with me his own family dynamics. He is a marketing executive and works mainly in the U.K. and has a predictable work schedule. His wife, on the other hand, is a software developer and travels quite a bit. When she is in the country, she generally gets home later than he does.
My colleague explained that he really doesn’t understand why his wife feels so guilty about not being home all of the time. He’s got it covered. He has learned to cook and enjoys it, and has dinner with their two boys most nights.He also doesn’t mind ironing and gladly takes on this role for the family. It was my male colleague who claimed that it’s not about the sex, but rather the housework when it comes to keeping a marriage together.
Don’t be a control freak – let others help out, especially your other half, and let him do things his way rather than yours. You should be delegating and outsourcing, especially the tasks you least enjoy. This will immediately improve your work-life balance and you’ll start to feel more excited about all the opportunities and experiences your career-family lifestyle offers.