I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 4

In Part four of this series, medical brought to you by Christine Brown-Quinn, author of “Step Aside Superwoman Careeer and Family is for any Woman”, the topic of work life balance and whether it can be a reality is explored.

If you’re  still enjoying the series, and haven’t yet entered our competition, why not do so today to be in with a chance of  WINNING one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book. Simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ and link to any of the I don’t know How she does it’ posts on my blog / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article.

Plenty of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

 

Is Work-Life Balance a Pipe Dream for Professional Women – by Christine Brown-Quinn

If you looked up to working mom Kate Redding as a role model, (Kate is played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don’t know how she does it), I suspect you’d come to the conclusion that work-life balance is a pipe dream.  Kate does a fantastic job taking on responsibility for everything and everyone, leaving little time to do anything for herself. Just watching the film tired me out!  But does it have to be that way? Are there no alternatives if you decide on a career AND a family?

At a recent women’s networking event I was horrified when I heard that one of top tips for getting ahead was to “work harder than your male colleagues, partner, husband, or brother.” Really? Is this what we are teaching the up and coming women in business today? Aren’t we creating this burden for ourselves by promulgating such superwoman behaviour? It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter and focusing on a few critical things that matter in building a career. Since we’re not superwomen, we’re only humans, promoting such behaviour as goal surely results in a lack of work-life balance.

Work-life balance is NOT a pipe dream, but there are 3 key ingredients which are often overlooked in making this aspiration a reality:

1. Keep yourself motivated and challenged

WorkingMothers.com 2010 survey Career vs Paycheck revealed that a working mother was happy in all aspects of her life when she had a high level of job satisfaction.  It’s worth noting that job satisfaction was highly correlated to a meaningful career or job – it wasn’t just about the money. Once we lose the buzz we get from our careers, the whole work-life dynamic falls apart.

How many women do you know who come back from maternity leave, feel side-lined, and   subsequently give up. “What’s the point?” they begin to wonder. If they’re going to leave precious little ones in someone else’s care, the job has got to turn them on.  I remember one day when my elderly neighbour saw me coming home from work and how amazed she seemed that I was chirpy and energetic after such a long day in the city. The secret? I felt challenged in my corporate career – the things I was learning made life very interesting.

2. Map out a routine for maximizing your individual level of performance

Organize your easy and tough tasks and challenges around those peak performance times.  Tackle the tough challenges when you feel at your best. For me it’s the first thing in the morning.  My confidence and patience levels are up and my head is clear.

I learned this by trial and error and being aware of how productive I was (or not as the case may be) at which times. There’s a key piece missing here. In order to be at your peak at work, you also need to figure out how much exercise and other activity you need to do (and how to make it happen) to keep your enthusiasm up at work.  What do you really like to do in your personal time that re-energises you. There’s so much focus on time management. It’s misplaced. We need to be focusing on managing our energy rather than our time.

3. Think Like a Business Owner

Point 2 leads really nicely into this point.  At the end of the day, what does a good manager really care about? That’s right, performance. I recently gave a talk about how important it is to invest and enrich in both the personal and professional dimensions of our lives, highlighting that it’s having both parts that can help you achieve optimal performance in each. Huh? Simply put, by having a varied life you avoid getting burned out, whether it’s caring for an elderly parent, hyper kids or a demanding career.

Dipping in out of both lives makes you appreciate each life and the benefits it brings. At the end of my talk an eager member of the audience asked, “But Christine, if I tell my boss how important my personal life is, he or she won’t get it, they won’t care.” I replied, “Well your boss may or may not care, but that’s not the point. As your manager, your boss expects you to organize your life so you can be at your best. That’s YOUR responsibility. Your boss wants to know where you are on your projects.”

The best rule of thumb to use when thinking about how to blend our increasingly complex professional and personal lives is to think like a business owner.  A business owner wants you to be as productive as you can and to manage your life to achieve this. Working 24 x 7, losing your enthusiasm, creativity and motivation isn’t good for you and it’s not good for the business.

Work-life balance is not a pipe dream. Like anything though, you’ve got to be strategic and focus on the most important parts or you’ll get lost in the detail.

This blog is part 4 of a 5-part series: I don’t know how she does it. For other blogs connected to this series, click here.

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 3

It’s part three of the five part series we’re running on the blog, sovaldi and this week Christine talks about the guilt we experience as working parents and how our professional life can enhance every other aspect of our lives.

If you’re enjoying the series, troche you might want to  WIN one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book. To do so simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ and link to any of the I don’t know How she does it’ posts on my blog / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article.

Plenty of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

Women in Business: Getting to Grips with the Guilt Trip by Christine Brown-Quinn

How can you possibly have a career and a personal life and not feel guilty that someone is getting short changed?  Is it a no win situation which just can’t be resolved?  Sorry for the cliche, but it’s actually a win-win situation.

First, let’s take a look at your personal life. You have a lot of commitments, right? But isn’t this what makes you feel connected to this earth?  Commitments are a good thing – you may have a commitment to a sports team, a local school, a charity or a family matter. These commitments take you away from work, both mentally and physically. (Again, this is also a good thing which I’ll come back to later). Your instinct is that your priorities are in the right place, but you still feel guilty leaving clients or colleagues with unfinished business.

Now let’s take a look at your professional life.  You are no doubt enjoying the challenge and collaboration of working with other adults.  Knowing you, I bet you’re really throwing yourself into the new job, the new role, or project.  But I hear you. You’re telling me that despite this job satisfaction you still do experience that tinge (or on a bad day, that pang) of guilt that you should be home having a glass of wine with your partner or reading that bedtime story with your kids.

Well, if it’s any consolation we’ve all been there. The point is you’re not alone and it’s not personal – it’s part of the human predicament.  It’s  part of what defines us and you’ve got to stop beating yourself up about it. It’s not your fault, so there’s absolutely no reason why you should feel guilty!

Kate Redding, the working mom played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the film I don’t know how she does it, demonstrates beautifully that so much of the guilt we experience is self-imposed. We set unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve – whether that be at home or at work.  Kate seems to feel guilty about everything and as a result she seems almost scatter-brained and unfocused in almost every situation. Her guilt seems to be driving her to be uber human.  (She really stoops low when she dresses up a store-bought cake as homemade for the school bake sale. She doesn’t want her kids to feel like she’s contributing less than the other mothers. Oh, please!).  In a way we set ourselves up for feeling a sense of failure, a sense of guilt, because we can’t meet a pie in the sky expectation.

Ok, so although you buy into my logic, you’re still not over it.

Here’s the real key to getting to grips with the guilt trip. What you have to realize is that it’s because of your personal life (rather than in spite of!) that you’re a better professional, a better business person. People like to deal with other people. The unique approach, values and integrity you bring to the work environment are your greatest contributions. Your uniqueness comes from your personal life, your upbringing and your personal experiences.  Also having a personal life pulls you away from work – it saves you from burn-out (I saw plenty of this in my corporate life!).  It allows you to break away and recharge your battery, which of course makes you more productive in the long run. Ever notice how much easier something feels once you’ve had that mental break?

Fine, I get all that, but I still feel guilty about not spending enough time with my partner.  I feel guilty about leaving the kids. Did you ever think about how your professional life makes you an interesting person – how it broadens your perspective? Have you ever thought about how your professional life enables you to support your partner’s career (you realize just how tough it is out there in the real world!)  So many skills and qualities that you apply in your personal life have actually been developed in your work life.  You’ve got it – your professional life makes you a better person – you as a partner, daughter, friend or mother. You can help your relatives and close friends get out of those tricky situations because you solve problems at work all day long!

Bottom line?  Although you want perfection, just focusing on that one thing doesn’t get you there either.  Once you accept that you can’t possibly be everywhere and do everything, and also accept that it’s the varied dimensions in your life that might it worth living, you’re well on the road to recovery.  No more guilt.  Time to enjoy life’s variety!

This blog is part 3 of a 5-part series: I don’t know how she does it. For other blogs connected to this series, click here.

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 1

Christine Brown-Quinn knows what she is talking about when it comes to managing career and family. The author of Step Aside Super Woman, sick Career &  Family is for Any Woman reflects on her own personal experiences and draws upon those in the ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate Reddy, the working mother in Allison Pearson’s book that inspired the film.

I’m delighted to be collaborating with Christine’s and bringing you this five part blog series over the course of the next few weeks to share with you some of those wise words that might just help you get the balance without the need for your Super hero cape.

To WIN one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article. Phew! Lots of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

 

Sinking Superwoman –  learning that ‘OK’ is good enough – By Christine Brown-Quinn

Have you seen Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest film I Don’t Know How She Does It?

I know how she does it because I do it. But, I’m no Superwoman. It’s the team that I have around me that does it –  my husband, our childcare provider and our kids all pitch in and make the career-family thing work.  When I was first starting out and doing the juggling act of career and family over 20 years ago, it certainly did feel like I did it.  But the downside was I also felt like everything was solely my responsibility. 

Like working mom Kate Reddy in the film (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) I used to feel that I singlehandedly had to hold it all together. How was I going to make the school meeting and meet the deadline at work? How was I going to get the promotion and still take full control at home.  How was I going to have the time and energy to bake a cake for the cake sale having worked another 10-hour day. I’m sure you get the picture.

The funny thing was my husband never said that it was all up to me. I made this assumption. I put this unrealistic expectation on myself that I had to be perfect home and perfect at work.  The day I stopped trying to be Superwoman (for the benefit of my own health and therefore for the benefit of everyone around me) was the day I started enjoying my life as a mother, wife, and professional. I realised that unless I changed my mindset I was headed straight for a meltdown.

What I also realised was that I was putting my personal life in one box and my working life in another without taking advantage of any transfer of skills between the two environments. I was gaining some fantastic management skills at work which I wasn’t using at home: delegation, prioritization, working in teams and managing teams just to name a few.  I admit that when it comes to delegation, it’s sometimes hard to give up control, especially at home. Let’s face it. You do do things better than most people.  No argument there. However, if you try to do most things all by yourself, you will burn out.  Constantly striving for perfection in every aspect of your life leads to a miserable existence.  Like Kate Reddy’s husband Richard says in the film, “OK, is good enough”.

Did you ever think about what you’re like when you act like a control freak? I have. Do your kids like you? Does your childcare provider like you? Does your partner like you? Let others in. Let them help out. Make them feel appreciated as part of the team.  Get them to own some of the problems and challenges. And yes they will do things differently, but don’t sweat the detail. We often criticize our partners for not helping out. And then when they do help out, but they don’t do things exactly like we do, we criticize them for that too! My husband’s approach and style to managing things at home is very different from mine, but no less valid (although I still think my way is better!) But the point is, I do let him get on with it and I try not to interfere. He’s a smart man. Why do I think I need to treat him like an idiot?

So by adopting this team approach, does this mean your life will be perfect? No, life is never perfect.  Sorry to break this to you. By adopting the team approach, however,  you can sustain a rewarding lifestyle that combines your career ambitions with a fulfilling family life.  Do it now. Let go. Ahhh. Doesn’t that feel better?

 

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