Finding Balance: Scenes from a Family
For many women, juggling professional success and family life presents challenges. Bringing home the skills that serve you in the workplace might just help you organize your life at home.
By Sarah Shaw, MEd, BCBA
It’s 6 P.M. and you’re on your way home from work, still reveling in the glory of your knock-out presentation, a well-earned over-the-top tip, or the new client you secured. You’re beaming with the pride of your success. But then you walk in the door of your home.
Immediately, you’re struck with defeat. Your pride dissipates when you see your youngest child crying on the floor, hear the dog barking, discover your teenager will be late to practice because he doesn’t have a ride, and realize that dinner will likely be pizza for the third time in a week. The chaos of your home is overwhelming, and you think What am I doing wrong?
We have all been there. Whether we are CEOs or working two jobs to put food on the table, we often experience a disconnect between success at work and success at home. If we can manage the stressors and responsibilities that come with the job, managing our family life should be easy, right?
Unfortunately, as so many of us know, these aspects of our lives are not congruent. The good news is, the skills that bring you success and satisfaction professionally can actually benefit your home life too; it will just take some work. Effectively transferring these skill sets requires systematic effort, trial and error, and, sometimes, a little bit of help. So how do you do it?
First, understand that running an organized home has many similarities to running a business, requiring many of the same planning skills and systems. In both roles you are managing schedules and deadlines, collaborating with team members to reach greater goals, and completing assignments under pressure. The difference? At work you likely rely on tools and systems to stay organized—alarms on your phone, calendar notifications, delegated tasks, and scheduled calls and meetings. Think about how you can translate those skills and systems to help on the home front.
While a family has very different goals and benchmarks for success than does a workplace, here are a few of the key tools that you can carry over from work to help at home.
Prepare. Preparation is the antidote for situational stress and anxiety. Small changes to your daily and weekly routines can save you time so that you don’t have to sweat the small stuff. Try choosing a day to meal-prep for the week and teach your children to pack their bag the night before.
Delegate. Despite what you may think, you don’t have to do it all. Set a family meeting to prepare as a team and determine exactly the roles each member will play. Don’t be afraid to hold your children accountable for themselves and their roles within the family to help with chores, find rides, and resolve daily drama that assuredly will arise.
Use Your Tools. Put professional hacks to use: put an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to call your husband for an update on the soccer schedule; create a shared calendar on everyone’s smartphones, with notifications of important events; and schedule family time to discuss concerns within the household or plan family bonding time.
These are just a few suggestions of many effective techniques for organizing your home. If something is working for you professionally, modify it to meet your family’s needs and try it out. Keep in mind that it takes a minimum of three to six weeks to determine if an intervention is effective, so give it some time. My bet is that you’ll see positive results across the board.
The measurement of your success at home will not appear in spreadsheets or as a year-end bonus or big tip but rather in invaluable increased connection to your family. The more organized and scheduled your home life is, the more time you will have to spend time with the people you love. If you spend less time stressing about what to make for dinner or fighting with your teens about what you need them to do, you will have more time to enjoy one another’s company and nurture loving and peaceful relationships.
We all yearn for the successes in our professional lives to match those of our home lives. We want to burst with pride when we step into the house after a long day and see our kids sitting at the table doing homework, an assortment of healthy dinner options in the fridge, and a sense of peace and love floating throughout the home. So make it your goal: translate successful frameworks from your professional life.
Still Need Help? Reach Out for Resources.
Okay, so, you’ve tried to bring your professional skills home to improve your family life but with no success. It’s time to call in an expert.
This is a scary step for many people. No one wants to feel helpless or inadequate at home, especially those of us who succeed in so many other areas of our lives. However, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone, and you simply cannot be an expert at everything. When we have a medical problem, we call a doctor. When we have legal concerns, we call a lawyer. When our car breaks down, we call a mechanic. Yet when our home life is struggling, we fail to call anyone. There is a stigma surrounding both mental health and parenting needs that is detrimental to the growth and success of so many capable people.
Whatever your needs are, there is a mental health professional who can provide you with expertise based on years of education and experience that you’re not expected to have. For example, the company I work for provides a service called Family Architects to support this need for peace, organization, and ability within a family. We are a team of mental health professionals whose job it is to come into a home for short periods of time to provide structure and organization where it is lacking. We address the individual needs of family members, as well as the needs of the family system. We identify problem areas that a subjective family member may not be able to see, and we provide evidence-based solutions to these problems in real time.
Another effective service is therapy or counseling. It sounds scary, I know, but that is simply society’s stigma clouding your judgment. Human relationships are complex. People have histories, expectations, needs and desires, and communication styles—all of which vary from person to person. This makes connecting with others difficult for everyone. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your family is to work on yourself and your relationships. Talk to someone. Figure out where things are breaking down and start to build them back up.
Sarah Shaw, MEd, BCBA, is a board-certified behavior analyst and the assistant clinical director for Cognition Builders, an education-based company that creates individualized home-based educational programs that address the idiosyncratic needs of clients and their families through a comprehensive program, which includes the implementation of an award-winning curriculum. Sarah works with clients around the globe via Skype and in person to help foster balance and stability in their lives. In her personal life, Sarah is an avid CrossFitter and a lover of anything containing squash.