Balance, Boundaries and an Incredible Support System

Defining balance can be tricky.

In my opinion finding balance between one’s work and the remainder of their life is very personal and varies from person to person.  What may be a life that is in balance for one person could be a life ready to go off the rails for another.  It all depends on our perspective on our life at work and our life outside of work.

Nonetheless, along my career and life journey I have found a few things that work for me in terms of balance that I think are worth sharing with others who may be struggling with the issue.

Seems like everyone everywhere is trying to find the right work-life balance.  I have a very challenging job and a husband and three children. I am often looked to at work as a role model of someone who has found work-life balance even with a demanding job and family.

I often find myself embarrassed by that because unlike others, I am fortunate to have an incredible support system.  My mother lives with us and does many things to help run the household.  She gets the kids off to school (makes all the lunches), does our laundry, and cooks dinner every night.  My husband, Shaun, is also a big contributor.  Additionally, he works out of the home so he is available to run daily errands.  Nonetheless, I have a very busy lifestyle and work hard to find “balance.”

There are however, a couple of key things I have learned about balance.  Again, defining balance is unique to every individual.  What balance means for me, can be entirely different than what it means to others.  Additionally, I believe that finding balance isn’t a constant state.  Sometimes, work has to take a priority and sometimes family life does.  The key is to not let one always take precedence over the other, but to ebb and flow with the situation at the time.

Based on my particular circumstances, while I do not see myself as a role model of work-life balance, I have learned the following lessons along the way that do help and are worth sharing:

You don’t have to be perfect.  There was a time that I thought I had to be the perfect leader, employee, wife and mother.  No one is, or can be perfect.  The earlier that you realize that, the better off you will be.  When you expect perfection in all things from yourself, you are setting yourself up for constant failure.

Set your own boundaries.  People will allow you to do whatever you allow yourself to do. No one is going to say, oh don’t take on that additional work, you have a family to care for.  After awhile, they will come to expect from you whatever you have willingly done in the past.  You have to set your own boundaries.  Just as people will come to expect you to do everything that you always have, they will come accustomed to, and accepting of your boundaries.

Know your priorities.  You have to decide what is important for you and what isn’t.  I take my job very seriously.  In the past, maybe too seriously.  One of the best ways I have learned to set priorities is by asking myself a simple question, ” In five years, will it matter that I did or didn’t do this?”  It is amazing how often the thing that you feel a strong obligation toward doing won’t even matter in five days.

Accept help.  There are many people willing to help you out.  Never turn down someone’s offer to help.  This relates to number 1 above.  Our drive to be perfect sometimes leads us to deny ourselves help.  If someone offers to pick up your kids from school or drive them to practice, let them.  You can always reciprocate in easier times.

Take time for yourself.  If you spend all of your time taking care of others and things you will become resentful.  Find something that you enjoy and that is just for you (exercise, reading, etc.) and make the time to fit it in.  Taking care of yourself re-energizes you.

Above all, keep in mind that life is too short and goes by far too fast.  We all need to earn a living but more importantly, we deserve to live life to the fullest.  This requires a balance between doing the things we have to do and doing the things we want to do.

About the author: Lisa Emerson is the Vice President — Global Total Compensation at McDonald’s Corporation. In this capacity, she has responsibility for all aspects of compensation and benefits globally. Lisa and her husband Shaun created Tutto Persona to share their experiences and thoughts on work, family, and other odds & ends.

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Meredith Conder

Saw a tweet from @HRLaurieRue about your blog and as someone who is trying to find out the formula for work/life balance, I enjoyed your blog. I agree that the balance is unique for everyone. I also appreciate your acknowledgement that perfection is not a realistic goal. It’s hard to let go of that! In your role, does your company offer any benefits that support life balance?


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