Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
I am an advocate for children and families – it has been my life’s work. I have seen up close and personal the real conflict that families face as they deal with the reality of balancing life. Successful parenting in this world of mass media and mixed messages is more challenging than ever before. I have personally experienced this conflict as an executive, wife, mom, and grandmother. Here are a few things I’ve learned that others may not tell you:
- One cannot have it all at all times. There are times when my career flourishes, but it comes at a cost to my family. My children or grandchildren may want me to be with them, but I have to be at a very important meeting. Other times, I invest in my family and feel torn about my career. There is no way around these facts. This is just life … period. No one balances it all perfectly at all times. Guilt must be managed. It will not just go away, and it often prompts us to focus on one area that needs us the most. Learn to manage your guilt and listen to your heart.
- There are times when I choose to put family first because I know that I have taken care of my career. My family and I deserve this time together, and I don’t apologize or feel guilty if work takes a backseat for a while. I have come to accept that my family and I deserve this. There are other times that work takes me away from very important family events, and I have to choose to manage my guilt. It takes continued focus and hard work to manage guilt and not allow it to manage you.
- I am of no value to either work or family if I am not physically and mentally fit. I have not mastered this, but I continue to work on it. Pushing myself beyond my limits causes me to perform below my optimum level in both my personal and my professional lives.
- I have learned to follow my gut instinct. Every time I have ignored it, I have regretted it. We usually know exactly what to do if we just learn to listen to our instincts. This might mean delegating the responsibility of an important meeting and getting on a plane to be with a child or spouse who needs you. Or it might mean leaving a family function and going back to the office to handle a task that you need to finish.
- Set traditions with your family that they can count on and start early with routines that are predictable and fun. Our family has lunch together almost every Sunday. This keeps me going and gives my grandchildren a connection to me that they can predict.
- Use technology to stay connected if you are unable to do it physically. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad that you are tucking in your child via FaceTime or Skype™. A virtual connection is better than no connection at all.
- Post calendars of fun things that you have scheduled. Keep reminders up if you are planning a weekend getaway with your spouse, children, or grandchildren. The anticipation will remind them of your love.
- Find ways to encourage your children and other family members to open up to you. When time is limited, find games, exercises, activities, or routines that work to get your family to share their feelings with you. You want to know how everyone is doing. Find creative ways to share feelings.