Thursday, April 17, 2014

On work/family balance and leaning in

Because baby update posts can get a little tiring...

Two of my truths these days:

I love my kids.
I miss work.

Recently I picked up two books from the library: Lean in: women, work, and the will to lead by Sheryl Sandberg and Overwhelmed: work, love, and play when no one has the time by Brigid Schulte. Note: when I'm looking for books I might like I always look at the "frequently purchased together" titles on Amazon.

Over the last year and a half, I feel like I finally achieved a decent work/family/life balance. It hasn't always been perfect but we definitely settled into a good routine. R and I have also grown in to better partners in shared parenting and housekeeping. With a third baby on the way I became even more interested in work/life balance and wondered about the challenges of adding just one more child to the mix with their own needs and demands. I feel like the odds are especially stacked against you if you have a "big" family as you are seen as tipping the scale toward trading off career for family life.

I really enjoyed Sandberg's book. I finished this book cover to cover in two days. The book focused a lot on her personal journey and experiences. A lot of her thoughts reinforced my own beliefs about shared parenting, etc. Her book is career-oriented and offers a prescription of dos and donts for building a successful career and balancing family life.  She highlights many ways that women unintentionally hold themselves back in the workforce. Some of these were eye openers and I recognized having played into them myself. A job recently came up that I had hummed and hawed about applying for since baby N was just born but I've decided to apply anyway. If I get an interview I can always try to negotiate a later starting date and work from there rather than not applying and possibly missing out on an opportunity.

The academic in me also enjoyed the research-heavy Schulte book, though I had a hard time getting through the first part on Work before more or less breezing through the parts on Love and Play. Schulte's book is all about how women (and even some men) feel overwhelmed with work/life responsibilities. In the Appendix at the end, she provides a good summary of all of the key takeaways from each of the areas of work, love, and play. Some of the things that stuck with me from this book are:

- Busyness is a choice. It is not a brag or an excuse. By saying you're busy you're actually saying I'm choosing something else.
- Women are super multi-taskers. But multi-tasking often leaves many loose ends rather than focusing productively on completing one task. Compartmentalize.
- Learn to embrace "good enough" and stop "maternal gatekeeping". Let others help and let them do it in their own way. You don't need to serve up a 3-course meal to have visitors. Keep it simple.
- Choose to be intentional. If you can't do everything with your kids, do the ones that matter most to them. In all likeliness they don't care who drops them off at soccer practice.
- The to-do list will always be never ending. Choose to do one extra thing each day. Park the items on a list - they'll still be there tomorrow.
- Make time to play.

Read any good books or blog posts on work/life balance lately?

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