Life & Work
Can Balance Really Exist Between the Two?
What do you do when two dreams collide? How do you determine the best way to balance both and be successful? For many professionals, parenthood is just as much as a dream as career success. However, often times they find themselves having to sacrifice one or the other in effort to maintain both. Employers like to refer to this constant reshuffling of priorities as “work-life balance” but many like the benefits or support to keep a fair balance between life and work. So what is the solution? Is balance between work and home life even possible and if it is, how is it obtained?
This month we are covering how one experienced woman in HR leaves and comes back into the workforce after having a child. Our goal is to encourage dialogue and enable others to see transitions that they may need to make with more ease and understanding. Patricia had worked for 10 years in a big corporation and felt well trained to move to a small, privately held company where she landed for an additional 15 years in the same metro area. Knowing this privately held company needed lots of work, she got use to putting in long hours and trained everyone who would listen about how to handle certain situations. She gave of herself much more than was requested and she grew to feel like the company was one big family. Going from 2,000 employee atmosphere to less than 100 was quite an adjustment, but it fit her lifestyle at the time.
After years of dedication, and feeling that something was missing, Patricia decided to have a family. Now, faced with little backup and use to handling sometimes 100 issues a day, she’s strained with how to announce to the company she is leaving and how they might react to her good news. Patricia had laid the foundation for her department and built her function within the organization to a point that many relied on her. She was now faced with the difficult task of transitioning this role to another who needed to not only be able to maintain her work but to continue to develop the organization into the future. After all, this job was very much Patricia’s “baby” for some time now and there was no doubt she had become personally invested. But how? How could she prepare all those that relied on her while at the same time equip a new person to maintain the momentum she had created?
She would also actively check in with people to get a pulse on how they felt about dealing with each other and became that much more of a ‘mother-hen’ over time where people would randomly come to her office for advice. Her challenge: not everyone wanted to admit or remember how much she helped them. However, Patricia was smart and kept an ‘event diary’ at home by person and usually came well prepared to speak to someone she needed help from. Now, it goes all the way up to the top. They know her value, but they have a tendency to always be trying to save money.
She decided to take Monday off for a course four weeks in a row. She had all emails forwarded to her staff and asked them to jump in. Knowing that they would and call her for information, she showed all the calls to the owner after he commented that it looked like they handled things well while she was out. He came back to understand just how much she was needed. This happened again and again. He got the value proposition. After a while it became clear, they needed Patricia and couldn’t survive without her.
Patricia started to wonder if there was perhaps an alternative to completely leaving her position. After all, she had proven her worth and value to the organization. Was it possible that a balanced arrangement between work and home could be found? As the her pregnancy entered the final stages, Patricia started working from home one day, then two days a week and proved that she could handle things remotely. She knew she had to give more even though she wasn’t there and worked to perfect her skills through private lessons. At this stage in her career, she felt she would get a very small percentage from a large or even small class and had to make best use of her time. She completed training in Negotiation, Conflict Management, and Politics with small privately held companies. All tailored to her specific needs.
In the end, Patricia stayed home for 4 months, 3 months were paid due to her very careful development and appreciation of herself, but most of all, development of the best perception of her by her employers.
After 4 months, and actively blogging about her activities she had another company pick her up and she worked between two different companies, her original employer and a new up and coming organization. She maintained both roles a year and made much more than either could compensate her for in she had worked full-time. Eventually she fully transitioned over to the new company and supported them for another two years. She joined a consultancy practice in 2011 and has been with them on a limited time basis. This has allowed her to continue her career while still finding time for her two children and husband.
Stories like Patricia’s are still somewhat rare these days. Many career minded people feel there is no alternative to maintaining both work and home life. In the end, one or the other may be compromised. In Patricia’s case, she knew her value to the organization and used it to her advantage. Demonstrating the value you add to an organization can very well be the ticket to the working solution that fits your life. If you are faced with a situation like Patricia’s, don’t give up either dream just yet. With some strategic planning and determination, you very well could find a true sense of balance in your life.