Top 3 Beliefs Women Carry That Sabotage Work-Life Balance

By Nicole Coope

In an earlier article, I shared Work-Life Balance is possible, as learned from my elementary girl self on the see saw. However, I continue to read articles that state, peace in both our professional and personal lives is impossible. So before I go off on another “it is possible” tangent, let’s be clear about the most prominent beliefs women carry that sabotage work-life balance.

Belief #1: “Having it All – I have to choose one or the other to achieve balance”

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Drew Barrymore stated she learned very quickly that “work-life balance” does not exist after the birth of her child. She could no longer work 50+ hours on the set of a movie and still manage to nurse and nurture her newborn. “Having it all” implies an extreme swing of the pendulum of equilibrium, either a full time career or motherhood – imbalance. The balance she once experienced in her professional and personal life changed because her priorities changed. “Work-life balance exists in finding the balance between the two so that women such as Drew Barrymore, can still enjoy promising roles as an actress while still enjoying the throes of being a new mother. If we define our lives by the extreme swings of the pendulum, then life will be grossly out of balance and the stress of such a life will manifest mentally, emotionally, and physically. Work-life balance requires compromise, finding unique ways to still enjoy the people, activities, and values in your life.

Belief #2: “Knowing it All – I have to have all the answers”

An issue that commonly comes up for women struggling with the ability to find balance in their professional and personal life is the belief that “I am supposed to know it all…I should have all the answers”. And if we don’t have all the answers or know it all, then we are burdened with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, shame, and unworthiness. Have you ever wondered, “What kind of mother am I because _______(fill in the blank)”? Maybe your child is not doing well in school, or you can’t figure out how to get your child home from school without sacrificing your work hours, or your teenage child clearly needs your attention but you can’t find any more hours in the day. If we were supposed to KNOW all of the answers to these questions, it would have been a part of our DNA, a natural instinct, like food, shelter, and water. But it is not. I believe we were designed with a need for others, a need for help, and guidance. When you take a moment to look around, we are surrounded by a world of resources and answers: Internet (aka Information Highway), teachers, mentors, family members, books, blogs, and so much more. If we were truly meant to figure it all out for ourselves, then there would be no need for phrases such as: “It takes a village to raise a child”, or “without counsel, plans fail but with a multitude of advisers they succeed.” Work-Life balance requires seeking help from other people or resources to answer our most difficult questions.

Belief #3: “I’m all alone – This problem is only mine”

One of the greatest mind tricks of this generation is convincing us that we are all alone in our struggles, issues, or concerns. In fact the shame or guilt of such situations or predicaments often prevents us from sharing the reality of our situation with family and friends. Did you know the best resource for how to manage a family of 3 as a single mom is another single parent?! Even the single moms who appear to have it all together had to start somewhere. I would bet money on the fact that their early years looked just like the phase of life so many women are currently in. It would be easier to work through the hoops of bankruptcy if we could share with another woman who had walked through the same financial difficulty. If we think we are alone, we will remain isolated and that much farther away from finding peace in our lives. Work-Life Balance does not mean you have to hide the struggle of your situation and figure it out on your own. To achieve the life you desire, you need to lean on the support of those closest to you. Why not start with the women or people in your community that have already crossed the bridge you are standing on?!

On a Personal Note

Like many Americans, I have a significant student loan debt. I used to be ashamed to talk about it because the whole point of going to school is to learn new skills so that I could earn a significant income and quickly pay back the loan. The fact that I am 10 years out of school and still carrying the debt often made me feel embarrassed or insecure about my skills. How can I be a good counselor/coach/financial therapist, if I still have debt – completely discrediting myself?! Although my goal was to be debt-free (pendulum swing), I could not figure out how to do accomplish the goal without sacrificing my time with my family by working 2 jobs (pendulum swing).

Last month, I decided to find out if there were any other working women in my situation on Google. I was shocked by the number of success stories of women and couples who eliminated large student loans or credit card debt. I wrote pages of notes on how these amazing people, who were not high profile financial experts, were able to pay off their loans in record time without sacrificing time with their family. Walking through this personal situation, I found peace restored and life coming back into balance because I realized:

1.) I am not alone – sharing my story is better than isolation and guilt
2.) I do not know it all – answers are all around me (seek and you shall find)
3.) I cannot figure it out on my own – ask for help, specifically, from those who have been in similar circumstance
4.) I cannot have it all – work-life balance requires compromise, and finding ways to meet my desire to be debt free with my need to have time for my family

Take a moment to ponder, what have you been struggling with in your life that you have not yet figured out? In what area have you kept yourself isolated because you felt too ashamed, embarrassed, or guilty to share with others out of fear of being judged? Now is the time to come out of hiding, look for answers, and seek the support of those around you, so that you can experience peace and balance in this key area of your life.

4 Tips to Achieve Work-Life Balance

By Nicole Coope

During the stress-free days of elementary school, my favorite game on the playground was the good old fashioned seesaw. I recall spending half the recess time period with my best friend trying to get the seesaw to stay exactly balanced in the middle. Little did I know I would spend the majority of my adult life working on the same balance in my work and personal life. The most recent Internet articles continuously state, “Work-life balance does not exist, and it cannot be achieved”. I humbly disagree, as my childhood years proved with the right tools, balancing a seesaw is possible.

Here are 4 lessons learned from an elementary school girl on how to achieve work-life balance:

1. Surround yourself with “best friends” – Run from the naysayers and critics

I chose to ride the seesaw with my best friend every day because she was encouraging and supportive. We laughed when we flew up in the air and cracked up when one of us would plummet down with a “thump”. It was a fun and creative atmosphere. I avoided, actually I ran, from the kids that yelled at me for hitting the ground, criticized me for not doing it right, or even went so far as to blame my weight as the cause for our failure. By the way, I was a skinny stick, who for a moment questioned my weight and worth – but that is another story. Lesson Learned: Surround yourself with family members, friends, and co-workers that will come along side and support you with their time and words in ALL areas of your life. Remember: “You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life”

2. Stop comparing yourself to 6th Graders (or others) – Find what works uniquely for you

I used to get frustrated watching the 6th grade girls balance the seesaw in half the amount of time it took me and my friend. They made it look so easy that when I tried to mimic their exact steps, it failed every time. After my oldest son started kindergarten, I realized the other elementary school moms were volunteering in the classroom 3 to 4 times a month and eating lunch with their child. I was lucky to get my son to school on time, let alone volunteer or eat in the cafeteria during the day. The more I compared myself to others, the more I felt like a horrible parent that was failing her son academically – “what’s wrong with me”. I’m not a supermom volunteer at school but I found a parent-helper plan for balance that worked for me and my son (my #1 priority). Lesson Learned: When you are looking at the people around you and feel as though you are not enough, STOP the comparison game and develop your own unique strategy. Remember: “Comparison is the thief of all JOY”.

3. Sometimes you get stuck – Ask for help

Every once in a while, I would get stuck at the top of the seesaw. I was scared I would not be able to get down without plummeting to the ground and the whole experience was outside my realm of control. These were the moments, when I would erratically scream for a Playground Volunteer, who then swiftly lowered me down to the ground with ease. When I have been overwhelmed in my business or personal life, it feels very similar to being stuck on the seesaw. I am feeling a lack of control and not sure how to handle the situation without hurting myself, or others. In these moments, I have had to:

• Recognize I’m scared, overloaded, or stressed
• Acknowledge I don’t have all the answers, and I cannot do it alone
• Humble myself to ask for help from a mentor, family member, or friend
• Receive the help that has been offered – whether it is time, advice, service, or a gift

Lesson Learned: Frightening or stressful situations are a lot easier to bear when you ask for help; the outcome is never as difficult as you imagined. Remember: “Fears are the stories we tell ourselves”

4.) Find the effort needed to achieve balance – Be prepared for trial and error

When I focused on going up on the seesaw I often pushed so hard that my friend would sink like a rock to the bottom – ugggh, painful moments. To avoid the crash, we tried to stay focused on one another and slowly pushed on our toes to find the exact percentage of energy needed to find balance. When I focused 100% on work, then my family had less of my time and my personal health often suffered due to stress. On the other hand, when I focused 100% on my family, then my business suffered financially and I missed key opportunities for growth and promotion. Clearly pushing “all-in” in one area of my life was detrimental to other areas. I did not get it all figured out in a week, and I had to accept the fact that I would make mistakes along the way. Lesson Learned: Identifying your priorities and establishing equilibrium in your business, relationships, and personal life requires patience with the process of trial and error. Remember: “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least” ~Goethe

As if it was yesterday, I can easily recall the feeling of satisfaction and joy when my best friend and I achieved perfect balance on the seesaw. It was a moment of success and jubilation. If you are willing to implement the lessons learned and patiently find the effort needed in the most important areas of your life, then you will experience the peace of work-life balance and the joy of a life well lived.