The Balance

It’s 7 pm. I should be at a book launch. The author is a friend who I’ve also worked with. But I have a 4year old on the verge of her third meltdown of the day, clinging on to me like the umbilical cord is still attached. So, I make the hard call, send my apologies to the author, put my hair in a top knot and settle in for an evening of placating and pacifying. 


As a mom who works outside the house as a content consultant (yes, stay at home moms also work) the graph between wanting to do more at work, with the kids and with life in general and what I can actually achieve is inordinately imbalanced.


Sitting in the dark trying to put the above-mentioned child to bed brings to mind a conversation I had with a fellow working mom. She has a 9-5 job in HR, two kids under the age of 4, a husband with a soaring career, a home to manage and ulcers. Yes, stress ulcers. Between managing to complete work by 5 so she can rush home to be with the kids, to working well into the night post their bedtime, her body is sending her distress signals. 


That particular evening while the children were busy making Lego homes, I was moaning about the fact that I had to turn down two full-time job offers this month due to childcare logistics, hoping for sympathy from her. Instead, I got a shrug and a pat on my back— “Good for you” she said. We have to stop being Greedy she tells me over coffee. Greedy about what? About our careers comes the reply. For her, the line is drawn in stone. She won’t stay at the office after 5 pm, won’t attend any events in the evenings or on weekends and will not answer emails on Saturday. This means she misses out on some projects, a chance to network with industry peers but she simply repeats—we have to stop being greedy... Huh! Imagine that. Balance perhaps is the answer then. We can have our passions and follow them but the boundaries have to be set. 


Taking the conversation to dinner meets with similar responses be it from the mom who runs her own business or the full-time working mom. Some strategies, learnt on the job, have helped them cope. The first one is discipline and this one extends from yourself to the kids to even your co-workers. The second is to speak up and lean on.  “I need to lean on everyone! I have an army at home supporting me, an army at work supporting me. I have to lean on and at the same time speak up about what my needs are.”


The third and perhaps most important and relevant in today’s era of FOMO is the courage to say no.  No to the after-work networking event, no to the school mom networking breakfast and sometimes even no to a night out with the spouse—that courage is what we often lack and in the garb of being a supermom, we try to do it all.  Counterbalance FOMO with a bit of JOMO!


So the next time I choose to stay at home instead of attending a school mom lunch or simply cite logistics as the reason I can’t make a meeting, I’m going to take a deep breath and remind myself that I need to stop being greedy and instead focus on what I have going for me now.