What Working Moms Can Learn About Finding Balance in Life From Julia Braverman-Graham

Do you feel like your life spinning out of control?  Join the club!

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Are your days so full of “things to do” you can’t see straight by the time the sun sets? Do you long for just a little more time to spend with your family and on yourself without the constant feeling that you’re rushing from obligation to obligation?

If so, you’re not alone…and there’s hope! Read on…

I’m not a huge TV watcher, but I admit to a couple guilty pleasures.

One of them is NBC’s nighttime hit “Parenthood.” (Not to be confused with the feature film of the same name, although who can forget Steve Martin mistaking Diane Weist’s vibrator for a flashlight in a blackout?).  I love this show because I totally relate to the characters who, like many of us, struggle with maintaining sanity while constantly juggling kids, work and aging parents.

In a recent episode, the main character, Julia Braverman-Graham, reached her breaking point. As an associate at a law firm working a gazillion billable hours, a mom of two, a wife and a devoted sister and daughter, she’s got one very full plate.

And like many of us, one day she hit her breaking point. Julia started to feel the weight of all her responsibilities, and the juggling act became increasingly difficult. It was becoming impossible for her to do it all, without someone being disappointed or something falling through the cracks. (Does any of this sound familiar?)

She was missing her kids’ important activities, and she was too exhausted at the end of the day to have anything left over for her husband, let alone herself. The breaking point was when she missed a critical work deadline because she was also trying to be an attentive mom.

It’s no wonder Julia darn near fainted in her kitchen one day trying to get her bickering kids ready for school and herself to work. The balls came crashing down, resulting in her crying “uncle” when she told her partners that she quit.

How many of us have felt that we’re losing the juggling battle and unable to live the life that we wanted? For those of us who have been there or are there, Julia provides two important lessons.

First, it’s not our fault. As Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote in her now-famous article in The Atlantic about balancing work and family, most women can’t figure out how to combine professional success and satisfaction with a real commitment to family, unless they’re superwomen. It’s not our shortcomings or inability to find the suit with the cape, it’s that the traditional box most women workers are stuck in involves inflexible schedules and career tracks.

Second, and more immediately fixable, is not to let things go until the breaking point. We women need to stop gritting our teeth and trying to barrel through like Julia did, fooling ourselves that it will somehow get better, easier. Instead, we need to get proactive about our options before we find ourselves a huddled mess on the kitchen floor.

Here’s a simple 3-step plan that will help you get your sanity back, and your life on track for what you want.

Step One – Take Stock

If you want things to change, it’s important to take an honest assessment of what’s going on in your life. Especially what’s not working.

Step Two – Clear the Decks

Do whatever you can to free up time. Get out of all the things you’ve overcommitted to that aren’t really what you want to be doing.

I’ve seen with myself and the women I work with that eliminating everything in your schedule that isn’t absolutely necessary or leading you closer to your ultimate goal (like watching TV or spearheading the book fair at your child’s school), creates little pockets of time every week that will allow you to figure out what it is you do want and then to make it happen.

Remember, to say “yes” to the life you want, you have to learn to say “no.”

Step Three – Start a Plan B

So many of us make the mistake of waiting until “some day” to have the life we want. I challenge you to start taking action now because the truth is, by taking small steps now, we can be in a very different place a year from now.

Women have more options than we think we do. We just need to allow ourselves the opportunity to dream again.

Is it time for a career change? Have you ever thought about starting a business around something you love? Do you want to travel more? Do you want to get more involved in your community?

I did these three steps to move my life from a place that was stressed and unfulfilling to a life I now love. I have a manageable work schedule that I dictate, time to be there for my kids and my husband and time for myself. And over time I’ve been able to add more hobbies and volunteer activities to the mix, without jacking up my stress level.

And through the work I do today, I also get to help other women create lives they love. So I want you to know, it is possible.

But it requires discipline and a huge reason for wanting to make things change. Just like having a baby, there’s rarely a perfect time to redesign your professional life to fit in around the rest of your life. So start now, before YOU reach your breaking point.

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