The Path to Better Work/Life Balance

Hollee Schwartz Temple
January 29, 2014

I've spent the past four years studying the state of motherhood in America, and I've interviewed far too many moms who use the word "stressed" to describe their parenting style.

Stressed? As a parenting approach? Ladies, I feel your pain. I know what it is like to try to cram 30 hours worth of duties and activities into the painfully short 24-hour day. I know how hard it is to decide to let something go, and how hard it is to say no.

But what if I told you that I surveyed more than 900 working mothers from across the country, and discovered that their obsession with doing things perfectly was actually holding them back? In fact, according to the survey results outlined in Good Enough Is the New Perfect, unrelenting perfectionism was the biggest obstacle to achieving work/life balance -- more troubling than inflexible bosses, spouses who didn't contribute enough at home, or even financial pressures that caused moms to work more hours than they desired.

Here are three tips, gleaned from the real experience of the successful moms we interviewed, on achieving better work/life balance:

1. Recognize that there is a difference between "being the best" and "doing your best."

So many of the moms we interviewed for Good Enough Is the New Perfect felt like they were competing in the Motherhood Olympics! And by golly, these moms were going to win.

But that left many of them feeling, well, miserable. And they weren't even comparing themselves to a real person, but rather to a composite "perfect mother" who was effortlessly knocking off everything on her professional and personal to-do lists, without a trace of macaroni in her up-to-date hair. That mom doesn't exist! Shoot for your own best -- and try hard not to compare.

2. Don't chase someone else's definition of success.

Many of the moms who were struggling most with work/life balance got tripped up by following someone else's idea of what a "good mom" or a "good professional" looked like. That didn't work out very well because often, these women did not have the same responsibilities or interests as the moms who were dictating their standards.

For instance, one mom in our book was trying to create a Martha Stewart-like environment at home, much like her own mother had done a generation ago. However, she was trying to create the household nirvana while also building her speech therapy practice and an online gift business. No wonder she couldn't be Martha! Something has to give.

3. Work toward a life that reflects your priorities and passions.

The most successful moms we interviewed found ways to embrace their priorities through their work. Many tried entrepreneurial ventures to gain more control over their schedules. Some worked reduced hours while their kids were little; others ramped off for a few years or more.

But the trick for the most successful moms was that they realized that there wasn't a one-size-fits-all solution to work/life balance. What was right for Jen wasn't right for Kim, and that was fine. Each mom has to decide for herself what feels good, right now, to her.

Originally published in 2011. 

Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood is available at bookstores nationwide or on Amazon at http://amzn.to/newperfect. Hollee and her co-author, Becky Beaupre Gillespie, blog about parenting and work/life balance at http://TheNewPerfect.com.

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