Lauren Laitin is the Founder and Principal of Parachute Coaching, a coaching practice, focused on women’s careers, confidence, and leadership. Parachute Coaching offers individual coaching as well as corporate workshops.
Pssst, Parents: It’s the Other “B” Word!
On our quest for happiness, success and fulfillment, people talk about balance like it’s the golden ticket. But it’s actually the other “B” word – boundaries – that really make the difference. Especially for working parents.
The reality is balance is neither attainable nor desirable for most career-focused folks. Balance requires things to be even, which means consistent, which means the same, which means BORING. Even if the idea of still waters are appealing to you day in and day out, it’s almost impossible to achieve because life simply isn’t still. There are so many moving parts: big meetings, play dates, work travel, doctor’s appointments, school conferences, skinned knees, and I haven’t even included things like grocery shopping! Life is full, making it pretty hard to achieve balance.
But with boundaries, YOU are in control instead of the illusive scales. Let’s face it, as much as you love your children, there are times when missing dinner or bedtime for a work event really IS the thing you want to do. And there are other times when no matter what is going on at the office, you just want to get home to your kiddo. Setting boundaries, instead of seeking balance, gives you more control to make those decisions as you wish, without feeling guilty. Most importantly, you can reset those boundaries everyday.
For example, on Tuesday, you have a big presentation. You’re really want to do well. You know realistically being home for bedtime on Monday is likely to cause more pain than pleasure. You also know that Friday morning is that field trip that your Kindergartener has been begging you to chaperone. Identify what you need to meet your work goal and your personal goal. (If the goal were balance, a big project like this would completely upset the apple cart. With boundaries, you can score both goals.) For Monday and Tuesday, make arrangements so that you can work late and tell your little one you won’t be home on Monday night, but that you will be at the field trip on Friday. Setting expectations is good for everyone. Then give yourself permission to really set your priorities to rock the presentation. Separately, block your work calendar for Friday’s field trip, letting folks know you’ll be offline for the morning, but will be back at it in the afternoon.
Boundaries – unlike balance – allow you to be adaptable. Boundaries also account for the reality that not every task takes the same amount of time. Sometimes you need all day at the office, and sometimes you need a chunk of time for a parenting activity. Not everything should have to be squeezed in on the same day. You are able to navigate life’s peaks and valleys without sacrificing your priorities or feeling inadequate for not keeping everything in check. So how we go about setting boundaries?
- Set your boundaries daily based on your priorities. Life changes and your boundaries will too. The amount of time or effort you’re willing to put into a work day, or a friend’s birthday party planning, or at the gym will change based on what’s really important to you on a given day.
- Communicate them. Let people in on the secret! Tell your friends that work is really busy this week and you can’t meet for happy hour every night. Or let them know that you’re training for your first marathon and you have long runs on the weekends. Letting people in will provide that extra support you might need.
- It’s okay to cross the line. Sometimes you have to slip up to learn what your boundaries really are. Pushing yourself too hard, or underestimating how long something will take you helps you set better, clearer boundaries in the future. So when you’re defining your boundaries, mistakes are often our best friends.
So go ahead and give yourself permission to set balance aside and instead start drawing some lines. You’ll be surprised at how much control and comfort that other “B” word offers.
To learn more check out our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more career and leadership inspiration, like Parachute Coaching on Facebook, and follow Lauren on Twitter @LaurenLaitin.