In this day and age, just about everyone understands that work sometimes occurs outside of the normal 8-5, Monday through Friday. Being a boss means sometimes you must take care of certain issues yourself. Not everything can be delegated to your team, especially after hours. In my position, this means traveling or working late nights or weekends. The age old question is, as a mother, how do you balance managing a team and a family?
By no means am I an expert at work / life balance.
Prime example – 5 1/2 weeks after our son was born, I returned to work. I was not even fully recovered from my c-section. For the first four weeks, I was in the office three days a week (at least) and working from home the rest of the time. I was able to flex my work space and spent a lot of time with my son on my chest and my laptop in front of me. I returned to the office full time when my son was ten weeks old. It wasn’t easy or ideal, but I got it done.
I am, fortunately and unfortunately, connected to my job 24/7.
This means emails and phone calls at night, work dinners, trips and the occasional evening or weekend of the TV babysitting our little guy. That’s okay. Because it’s not balance so much as knowing when to flex. I am lucky to have a job that is flexible. This means that if I want to take a day off to take care of my family, I can. It also means that my laptop comes home with me most weekends and with us on vacations. If I need to work from home because my little guy isn’t feeling well, I can. I work through lunch most days so I can leave before 5pm to pick my son up from daycare. My team at work knows that my family comes first. I know it doesn’t always seem that way – again, connected 24/7, but its true.
The first time I had to travel for work after giving birth, my son was 7 months old.
I was gone for 3 ½ days. I remember the panic I felt and the planning I did for that trip. Yes, I know – had it been my husband, he would have packed a bag, kissed us goodbye and walked out of the house. I, on the other hand, spent two weeks planning. I made sure I had enough breast milk pumped, bottles prepped and labeled and a detailed daily itinerary of my son’s schedule for both my husband and my mom. Meals cooked and stored in the fridge for my husband. And I worried, incessantly. Since then, I have made countless overnight work trips. As nice as it is to be in a hotel room, eating take out, catching up on emails, work and Netflix with no one else to take care of, I still miss my family.
It takes a village. Seriously.
I am very lucky to work for women who are very understanding about life and kids. Illness, injuries and doctors’ appointments don’t always occur outside of working hours, and it helps that they are moms themselves. They have been there and done that. My village actually includes my boss and my team, along with my parents, aunts, friends, mother-in-law, nieces and sister-in-laws. Back in December, our son broke his leg in a freak playground accident. I had to swing by my office for a quick meeting before taking him to his orthopedist appointment to get a permanent cast. My team took turns entertaining him while I was in my meeting. I would not be able to do what I do, and be successful, without my entire village.
Quality time with my family and not neglecting my work is like walking a tight rope.
I don’t want my son’s memories of me or his dad to be of us on our phones constantly. So I try to walk that line. I make decisions on a daily, hourly and minute by minute basis as to whether I will answer a call, text or email right away or save it for later. Some of those after-hours calls go to voicemail while we eat dinner as a family and I finish up bath and bedtime routines. I’ll return the calls, emails and texts once our little guy is in bed or in the morning before he wakes up. I’m working hard, daily, to be conscious of where and what my attention is on.
There is no magic resolution to this conundrum.
I do my best every day to give my family the attention and time they need. Sometimes, I fail miserably. I can’t always leave work at the office each afternoon, but I am continually re-evaluating what I do take home with me and when it gets worked on.
That is the best I can do for now.