Achieving work-life balance when you’re a parent isn’t an easy feat, we all know that. However, when we look to some working parents for inspiration, we learn that while it’s an ongoing struggle, balance is achievable. We talked to three women from our Femme Palette mentor community to find out how they manage to juggle career and kids, what solutions have worked for them, what has been their biggest challenge, and what they’ve learned from parenthood that has benefited their careers. Let’s hear from organizational psychologist and business coach Olga Zimmermann, storyteller, content creator and solopreneur Pavla Lokajova, and career and leadership consultant Julia Christodoulou.
What solution has worked for you in balancing work and family?
Olga: To get rid of perfectionism and accept the fact that I am not a superwoman and cannot have it all if I want to succeed in my business and still have enough time for my family. So simple things like cleaning and cooking had to get truly optimized and from time to time delegated.
Pavla: I would say the number one thing that makes this work for me is prioritizing my time with my kids. Most afternoons are for us, so are full Thursdays and weekends, and work doesn't interfere. If it does, I draw a boundary. Sure, I am still able to read a short email here and there when on the playground, but I can also go for hours without my phone. I learned to intentionally devote my full attention to the moment. I'm not the kind of parent who can juggle and multitask, I did horribly when I tried. Knowing this, made me claim my 25hour work week and feel like I am building my career, and also not missing out on experiences with them.
Julia: Having a shared Google Calendar with my partner and with my colleagues at work. Both my partner and I see each other's work calendars and all of my colleagues are able to see that in my calendar I have blocked time for activities for myself and with my family. Having things like picking my children up from kindergarten, or taking them to the doctor visible for everyone, saves me a ton of emails and Slack messages.
What has been your biggest challenge as a working mom?
Olga: To be 100% present for my daughter when spending time with her. My mind would be still running ideas and thoughts about work. It took me a long time until I learned to separate these two worlds. And it still happens sometimes but now I can recognize it much quicker and shift my focus.
Pavla: Working nights. Once I found out I could accomplish a lot between 10 PM and 2 AM, I was sold. Working at night wasn't a challenge for me from the point of view that I would have to force myself to stay up (well, I did want to sleep but I was also too excited about the possibility of how much I can cram into any given night). The house was quiet, nobody was online and I could lose myself in writing or researching. I felt like I found a hack, a loop in the system, and I could be a parent who doesn't need any help like nannies etc., and miraculously also keeps building her career. I felt like a superwoman, until (1,5 years in), my hair started falling out in chunks, my body hurt constantly, my brain was foggy. I burned out.
Julia: Asking for help. Growing up in a society that has rewarded super-women who please everybody and seem to have it all, has forced me to think that I can be a super-mom too and for a long time I have tried to balance everything alone. After going through a burn-out, I have learned how to say no, delegate, and seek help from my family with watching my children and cooking.
What is something you've learned from raising kids that you've used in your career?
Olga: Patience. Both, for myself and for the outside world. Simply realizing that some things need time to get ready to happen.
Pavla: Intuition. I'd say I'm more in touch with my intuition in general, but also I've had a couple of moments where I felt the urge to do something without that being fully rational or making any sense (like when we just came from the hospital and something in the kids' eyes tells me to go again, now). I learned not to question it. It makes even less sense in the business world driven by data and efficiency, and I definitely need more practice but when I feel a person feels off or a company is toxic, it's an easy “no” these days. Same in my writing, when I feel the urge to go completely off script or throw weeks-worth of work away only to start over again, I go for it. As a recovering people-pleaser, it helps me make bolder career moves.
Julia: Resilience. Having children at home brought new, unexpected things to my life, and a lot of them have caused my plans to be turned upside down. With this happening on a daily basis, I have learned to embrace these changes and use them to my advantage, in order to become stronger personally and professionally.
If you’re a mom yourself and could use some help with achieving work-life balance, or if you could benefit from some guidance when returning to work from parental leave, working with a mentor can be a great way to make sure you achieve this. Mentees in our Femme Palette Mentoring Program for Moms get 15% off!