A young mother wrote: I work to support my parents and younger siblings. Every day I feel unhappy to leave my little child behind. Given the choice, I would rather stay home and look after her myself, but this is not an option for now, as I am the sole breadwinner for my parents and siblings. Is there such a thing as balancing work and family?
Such is the dilemma of young working mothers, whose number is growing by the day.
Is there such a thing as balancing work and home/family? The short answer is yes. But, firstly, realise that “balancing” work and life does not equal 50-50. It means you aim for a sense of achievement, tangible progress and real progress that you can feel, at work and at home.
We all seek meaning in our lives, whether we realise it or not. We want to feel and believe that what we do is contributing something to humanity. It is a noble intention but in the process of achieving what we seek, sometimes it becomes something else. We get sidetracked by lots of things.
Technology is supposed to make us all more effective – personally and professionally. It is supposed to help us complete work on time, if not earlier, thus creating more time for ourselves and therefore, time for family. But along with the advent of technology, expectations have risen.
Employers now expect their staff to be contactable or available all day. Meanwhile, the Internet, online games, social chatrooms, Facebook and so forth beckon and tempt us to “get connected” to our bosses, colleagues, friends as well as the outside world.
But it is possible to not let technology rule our lives. We know people who use technology to their advantage. They are no less connected to the outside world but they do not allow it to control their lives. To achieve this, you need clarity in how you run your life every day and what you are trying to achieve.
To help you achieve a better balance between work and home, understand how you can manage negative stress that has been plaguing you:
1. Guilt Complex. This is a common syndrome among working parents who leave the children under someone else’s care. Some people have the option of staying at home and delaying their career a couple of years or become homemakers for life. But for other parents, if they do not go out and work, there is simply no food at home. It is as simple as that. To deal with your guilt, it is good to reflect why you need to work. If you are the type who self-criticises a lot, recognise your thoughts as such. Know that these are no more than thoughts. Let them pass. You are not your thoughts.
2. Emotional Spillover. Be aware of frustrations at work. Be sure you leave them at the door before you step into your home. Your kids/spouse/family don’t deserve to be welcomed with negativity, especially after not seeing you for hours on end.
3. Needs. You are a human being whose basic human needs must be fulfilled to enable you to look after your children/family. Proper nutrition, for example, is a must. Never take yourself for granted. Self-care is often overlooked by young parents in the midst of juggling work and family. Educate yourself on what’s best for your health. Foods like coconut oil, olive oil, and honey are some excellent choices to boost body and mind.
4. Outsource. Do only what you need to. Spending meaningful time with your children/spouse/parents is much better than making sure the car is spotless.
5. Support. Acknowledging that you need support, and asking for support, does not reduce who you are. It shows you are human. Reaching out to someone, be it a family member, colleague or friend, helps strengthen your peace of mind and build your immune system. Research has proven time and again that positive social connections do have many health benefits. But, of course, stay away from toxic people.
Read this article in Malay: Atasi Stres – Imbangi Kerjaya dan Keluarga
NOTE: This instalment of the Gift Of Kindness column was published on page 20 (see below) of the March 2017 edition of AlWasat, a bilingual Australian newspaper (Arabic & English) based in Melbourne. Read it online here.