There are almost as many approaches to balancing work and family life as there are families. Meet two women who are making it work for them in very different ways.
Gwyn: Getting by with a little help from her friends
Gwyn is married and has two children, ages 12 and 15. Now the president of her own marketing business, she previously held positions as senior vice president of marketing and director of tradeshows and events with two major corporations. Although juggling demanding jobs and family hasnít been easy, she has found great strength and support through several groups of friends she has relied on over the years. These friends have provided the impetus for Gwyn to make time for herself Ė whether itís an evening out, a weekend away, or emotional support when things are getting tough.
Gwyn finds running her own business to be much more satisfying than working for big corporations, where she found that no matter how much she did it was never enough. With her own schedule to keep, and a five-minute commute to her office, she is able to schedule her time so that she can both run her business and be available her children. Her workday begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m., with the mid-afternoon hours kept free for helping the children with transportation, dinner, and whatever else they may need from her.
On the practical front, housecleaning is taken care of by a weekly cleaning service, and many meals are purchased already prepared, or provided by a "personal chef" who stocks the refrigerator and freezer with prepared meals. Laundry gets done while home for lunch, or in the evening.
Gwyn says that in order to make the work and family balance successful, one has to plan ahead, make deliberate decisions, and have confidence in oneís plan. She would encourage other women to take the risk to start their own business to take better control of their schedules and lives.
Laurie: Divide and Conquer
Laurie, a branch manager at the headquarters of a church with a large international following, is married and has two daughters, ages 14 and 17. She says the things that make her life work are a flexible work schedule, prioritizing tasks at work and home, dividing the household responsibilities, and making time for herself.
Laurie often starts her work day at 6 a.m. and leaves for home at 2 p.m. This early work schedule gives her some quiet work time at the office at the beginning of the day and allows her to be home in time to pick up her younger daughter from school. Sometimes, if her work hours during the week are less, she will go in to the office on the weekend while her husband is home and available for their daughters.
Prioritizing is her greatest friend both at work and at home. At work, Laurie finds it very helpful before leaving for the day, to prioritize in writing the tasks for the next day. This helps her to start the day focused and optimize her time. For long-term projects, she sets up several appointments, in advance, to work on it. This assures that progress is made at a steady pace. At home, she takes care of the essentials and lets the other things go, reminding herself that she canít afford to be a perfectionist.
To divide up the family chores, Laurie meets with her family every Sunday evening to go over the calendar for the next week. They divide the kitchen work by assigning one person a day to be "in charge" of the kitchen. This means that for that day, this family member is responsible for setting the table, cooking two fresh vegetables to go with a purchased main dish for dinner, and make sure that the kitchen is cleaned up before going to bed. A cleaning service comes in bi-weekly, and the two daughters divide the supplemental cleaning chores and the grocery shopping.
She takes time for herself on a daily basis by starting her day with a 20-minute walk, and a short time for spiritual study and reflection. Every Tuesday evening, she goes out on a date with her husband, and once a year takes a weekend off to go away alone.
Laurie believes that in order to make the family and work equation balance, one has to be flexible, constantly making adjustments both at work and at home, always prioritizing. She says that on some days even that doesnít work, but one just accepts it and keeps going. Things will get back on track the next day.