Mom Writes First

38: What to Ask Yourself about Work-Life Balance

July 20, 2022 Jen Larimore
Mom Writes First
38: What to Ask Yourself about Work-Life Balance
Show Notes Transcript

What to Ask Yourself about Work-Life Balance

We’ve been lied to! As mothers, we are taught to achieve some sort of balance between all the hats we wear, but what exactly is balance, and has it EVER been achieved? If so, that person needs a Nobel Prize because from my experience and mothers I’ve spoken to, this unattainable utopia has remained elusive. Telling a mother she just needs work-life balance can be harmful, because it sounds like a normal part of life, but it doesn’t actually exist. Also, when referring to work-life balance, it almost always leaves the needs of the person trying to achieve that balance out of the equation. It’s a common theme in our society to just keep working harder, and to do better, but at what cost?

What if we changed our perspective of what work-life balance means to mothers in society and create a new narrative? Like going after your dreams after having children and setting a positive example for them to not let anything get in the way of their dreams. Or to be able to be fully present for your children because you yourself are fulfilled by the way you’ve structured your life for YOU, and not society’s expectations. The positive outcomes from making this switch can be exponential, but we have to change how we approach what it is to be a mother who is also a lot of other things.

Join us in today’s podcast to learn why work-life balance is a hoax and what we can do to change it. Let’s take our power back together!


Topics discussed in this episode:

  • How work-life balance doesn't exist
  • Leaving mothers out of the equation
  • Why balance is directed primarily toward women
  • How society has shaped the question around work-life balance
  • The history of work-life balance
  • What balance means to our host Jen
  • Questions to ask yourself when considering balance
  • How to take your power back

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How do you balance it all? Have you been asked that question as a working mom? I have been asked that question countless times. I've asked myself that question countless times. It's one of the things that we, as moms are taught to ask ourselves. And it's a challenge that we have been taught as a working mom to pick.

To try to meet. It's like our society expects us to be constantly striving to achieve balance in our roles at work and our roles as a mom, to our kids on today's podcast. I wanna challenge the very idea of balance and offer you a different. I think more useful way to think about how we spend our time, how we prioritize, what we want to prioritize in our life and how we think about our roles and ourselves as working moms.

Are you in take a breath? Let's go. 


Check out almost any parenting magazine or mommy blog. And they're sure to be a section on the elusive work life balance, and how to obtain it, ask any working mom support group. And they'll be sure to spell out lots of ideas, your friends, your mom, your neighbor, they're all well meaning and they all have lots of ideas for you too.

And none of them, my friends, none of them are going to be able to help you when it comes to work life balance in your life. And that's because the idea of work life balance is an illusion. It's a hoax. Stay with me here. How do I know it's a hoax? Number one, no one has been able to clearly define or measure when work life balance has been obtained.

It means different things to different folks. And even if we thought that it just would mean 50% time caring for your family and 50% time taking care of work, there are lots of us, me included who would not necessarily feel happy in that arrangement. Some of us would want more time. Or less time at work.

Some of us would want more time or less time with our families. Some of us would want time for ourselves times to prioritize our own goals, our own social relationships, our own health, physical and mental, our own health, our own wellbeing.  that's a pretty important part of being human. And yet it's often left completely out of the equation when it comes to this idea of work life balance, the second way or reason for which I know the second reason that tells me that this is a hoax, is that this is almost always an issue or a concern directed at women.

In other words, the idea of balance is I would submit a very, very gendered notion. One of the very first things I was asked when I was pregnant with my first child. And when I made it clear that I wanted to continue in my role as an attorney was. How would I manage all of that? How would I balance it?

Honestly, if I'm being completely honest here, I can remember having discussions about this with friends, colleagues, mentors, before I ever even was thinking about having kids much less had a child, and guess who wasn't raised having those discussions, my husband, nobody asks him.  if he is able to balance his work and his role as a parent with all his caregiving responsibilities, no one asks him how he manages to take care of the house or the yard, and also go to work and to take care of the kids.

Nobody even thinks to ask that question of him. No one wonders how he makes it all work. So to begin with, I think that it is important that we recognize that this question implies a lot of societal expectations on our role as women. And it is also created by social conditioning. Personally, I think that this is excellent news because it gives us an opportunity to question the very premise of the idea of work life balance.

 When we think back about how the idea of work and work life balance evolved, we can actually trace that back hundreds of years

when folks were first positing that perhaps instead of spending 18 hours a day, working workers should have. Eight hours of rest, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of work each day. And then of course, through the early to mid 19 hundreds, the labor groups were really able to effectively establish that 40 hour work week as  a standard expectation.

By which we would all measure our work fast forward, to the 1980s and this idea of work life balance. As we think of it today really comes into play, questioning how a woman can possibly manage. Both her life at home and her responsibilities at home and also manage her responsibilities at work.

I've had a lot of different ideas of what balance means. And as a working mom of five, I have been asked countless times, how do you balance it all? And look, the truth is I don't even know where to begin with that question.

Here's what I think. I think if you're a working mom, then you get to decide what balance means to you. But I also think that before you even try to answer that question, you should ask yourself, do I even want balance? Why is balance such a good thing? Maybe there are times that it makes sense for you to be working 80 hours a week, holding multiple jobs, working and going to school, working your day job and showing up to rock your side hustle in those situations.

You're probably not going to feel very balanced. But do you want to feel balanced if you're trying to go after all of those things?  This idea of balance is a trap it's intended to keep working moms striving for something that doesn't even exist. And can't really be measured.

it keeps us layered under a blanket of shame and guilt. It's a notion that can leave moms, all moms feeling inadequate. I've heard, stay at home. Moms say that they feel inadequate because if they worked, they couldn't possibly , manage it all like some women. And I hear working moms constantly striving to feel.

When they don't even know how to get there. I've seen moms cut their hours and their pay at work and still feel like they haven't achieved balance. And then because they've reduced their income, they can't balance their checkbook anymore. Either. I've seen this idea, create insecurity and self doubt and bring moms down.

and because moms are always looking for the answer outside of themselves, they try to ask others for their ideas and opinions. And then that creates expectations. This is such a burden. I humbly submit to you, my gentle listeners that work life balance is a fallacy. It keeps us all in a cage of not enough.

Striving endlessly toward a goal that doesn't even exist and that which we haven't even chosen for ourselves. So let's not do this anymore. Even if you obtain balance for a little while, life is still going to be life. There are still going to be difficult times and negative emotion. Inevitably something will happen that throws it outta.

balance then is not something that you achieve once and then have forever. You don't wake up one day, put on a cap and gown and have someone hand you your balanced diploma from the school of life and call it good. It's not how it works. And yet this issue, this question of how do you achieve balance keeps coming up.

But what if it didn't.  Is this question "How do I achieve work-life balance?" even a useful question for you? Is it serving you? What is it that you're actually trying to achieve by asking yourself this question?  Because here's the thing: you're an adult human in this world. You get to decide what you want your life to look like.

That means. You can decide what you want your work life to look like, what you want your family life to look like, what you want your personal life to look like. It means that you can decide that now is the time to not coach your kid's softball team and to show up 110% for your side hustle. Instead, it means that you can decide that this quarter you're focused on growth at work.

Or meeting that target for your bonus and you get to decide that right now you work two jobs to make ends meet.   It means that you can decide to go back to school, even if you're also working full time.

Maybe that means on family movie night, your hold up studying. , but also, maybe you're going after your dreams is an incredible example to set for your kids. And for those around you, maybe when your kids are in college, pursuing their dreams, they'll think about the example that you set in studying hard to get, where you want to go.

You see my friends, not only do we get to decide. We want to do, we also get to decide what we make it mean  instead of using ideas like work life balance against ourselves, maybe we can start using our thoughts to help and support us. 

You get to decide all of this, you can decide right now that what you want is for your work to take a backseat to Friday afternoons at the park with your toddler,  it means that you get to prioritize your own mental and physical health and wellbeing right now, instead of having that place second fiddle to work parenting or household responsibilities, maybe you are first this time and you get to decide all of this and you get to decide what you make it mean.

And when you do that, when you free up time and space to go after those dreams and be aligned with what it is that you wanna do and to not beat yourself up about it, then guess what? You open up a lot more time and space for the things that have to get done each day to,  manage life and you open up  brain power to come up.

Creative solutions so that everything else gets to be done gets done. Even if you can't do it, or you just accept that, some of that stuff isn't gonna get done. And that's okay, because you've already decided ahead of time what your priorities are right now and how you're going to think about them.

Isn't this all incredibly empowering. 

What if you stopped looking for work life balance and instead asked "Is the way I'm living my life currently consistent with my values and my vision for what I want my life to look like"? In this way, you might decide that there are times where it makes sense for you to be working more or focusing more on your personal hobbies.

Focusing on a side hustle going to graduate school. And maybe then it means that you spend less time on caregiving, responsibilities, less time taking care of the house and the pets as working moms. There's always so much pressure to look like. We have it all together to look like we have it figured out, but let's face it when it comes to achieving this so-called balance.

We don't have it figured out. And I would tell you it's not even possible to. So how about then we give ourselves permission to stop acting like we have figured it out. How about instead we each think of our life as a, choose your own adventure book. And what if we ask ourselves what adventure we want to go on in this stage of our life this year, this week, and this decade?

In a choose your own adventure book. There doesn't necessarily need to be a right or a wrong path and you can always try again. So when something feels like it, isn't serving you anymore, you get to try again, start over, choose a different adventure. Take the pressure off of yourself. Have some fun, choose some fun.

To recap, before you even think. Of what work life balance would mean to you ask yourself, is this a useful question for me? Is it something that would serve me? And then instead of asking how you're going to achieve work life balance, look at your life and ask is the way that I'm living my life right now, consistent with my values.

And is it aligned with the vision? For what I want my life to look like? And from there when you plan how you want your life to look, think of it as a, choose your own adventure story, write the story, create something that is going to work for you. 

. Don't let anyone else do this for you. And please don't let your story be dictated by the outdated, tired illusion that is work life balance. You're the only one who can figure this out and you've got this. You can handle it. You can go first. 📍 

Okay. My friends, thank you for checking out this episode. If  thinking of work life balance in this new way, resonated with you, be sure to head over to the mom first podcast page on Facebook. It's there that you'll learn more about all of these tools and concepts that I share on the podcast.

And you'll meet other working moms and it's there. That you'll be the first to know about my upcoming coaching program. When it goes live, including the scholarships and the foundation that I'm creating that will empower women own businesses to thrive. It's mom, first on Facebook, I can't wait to see you there.