Have you already selected a Mother's Day gift? One popular gift on many parents' wish list is more time. Many working professionals struggle to find the time to take charge of their careers while still being able to attend their child's games, recitals and other events. Some wish they could make it home for dinner a few nights a week. A recent Pew Research Center study found there has been an increase in the number of stay-at-home moms for the first time in many years. Forty-one percent of single stay-at-home mothers and 64 percent of co-habitating mothers give family care as the primary reason for their being home.
Barbie Adler, president and founder of Selective Search, an executive, personal matchmaking firm based in Chicago, focused on starting a business rather than starting a family. However, when she married her husband in 2008 and became a stepmother to his two daughters, who were both younger than age 10, it was imperative that she made some quick adjustments. Here are some tips to accomplish the often elusive work-life balance.
Define your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to balancing work and life. Everyone has a routine and it's important to figure out what works best. Will leaving the office earlier two nights a week or planning one activity every weekend to enjoy as a family suit your needs? Adler suggests you find a routine that works, and stick to it. Make sure you don't let other people's opinions of the ideal family life influence you: identify what is important to you.
Schedule and prioritize. Plan ahead. If you're heading out of the office early, you will need to make up your work at another time, which might mean working after the kids go to bed or early in the morning. "Have the mindset that when you leave the office early, your competitors are staying late," Adler suggests. To keep ahead, schedule the next day before leaving the office. "Map days out by time increments," she says. "It will help increase efficiency, resulting in more time with family."
Redefine. While we talk about balancing life and work, the goal, in fact, is to accomplish a successful blend. Cali Williams Yost, founder and CEO of the Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc., uses the term "work-life fit" to describe the goal of most working professionals -- both men and women -- who sometimes focus most on work and other times focus on all the rest. "Aim for flexibility and transparency," Adler notes. "Don't expect it to be an equal balance all the time. Sometimes a project or client will demand more time than they will during other months, and that's OK. When at the office, be laser-focused on assignments, and when with the children, don't refresh your email constantly. Work and life are never predictable, being flexible and transparent about the needs of a client or child will help better manage each."
Over-communicate at home and work. "Teach children traits like professionalism, teamwork, work ethic and problem-solving skills," Adler says. "Explain a certain situation that happened in the office and how it was resolved." When you keep them in the know about what you are doing at work, they'll be more likely to empathize if you need to work late or miss an event.
Create parallel paths. Regardless of how much a day is scheduled in advance, it's inevitable that emergencies will come up. Adler suggests: "If working from home is an option, set up shop with the kids and have a joint work session where you work on your project and the kids work on homework."
Share a passion and recharge. Make sure you spend your together time well, and put down the phone. "If free time is rare, don't waste it doing something either party doesn't enjoy. Find activities to do together whether it's reading, piano lessons or just going to the park," Adler says. If the workload seems overwhelming, make an effort to step away and spend quality time with family. You'll have renewed energy to re-engage with work.
Trust your team at work. Let's face it, you can't always do everything. If you work with a team, build and develop camaraderie throughout the year so you can turn to them when you need to focus on your family. According to Adler, "Have open communication with them about the status of certain assignments that may need attention when you step out."
Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers, is often quoted in major media outlets for her job search and social media expertise. Author of three books and a sought-after speaker and coach, she leverages her extensive background and successes to teach job seekers and entrepreneurs how to easily use social media marketing to accomplish their career and business goals. Salpeter also provides strategic advice and support regarding interviewing, résumé writing and personal branding.
More From US News & World Report