By: Taharah Saad
Can women really have it all, and still manage to keep their sanity? Is it possible to have a career, a family, a social life, plus find time for extracurricular activities and some “Me” time? Can we really juggle all these different tasks and not drop the ball on anything? These are the questions that keep us up at night. Literally and figuratively. As women, we have so much pressure put on us from so many angles to be perfect. Perfectly dressed, always having everything under control, successful, beautiful and on top of that have spotless homes and home-cooked meals. Even worse, we end up putting extra pressure on ourselves to prove that we can have it all.
We’re so hard on ourselves that if any one of the many tasks we are juggling falls even slightly short we feel like failures and spend way too much time criticizing ourselves. And for working moms, the pressure is added because now there are kids with all of their needs and wants and extracurricular events into the mix.
So we always come back to the question (and often ask ourselves), can we really have it all?
Is it really worth it, or should we focus on one aspect of our lives at a time? Should we work on our career first and then have kids? Should we have our kids earlier on and then once they’re a little older focus on our careers?
The answer is, there really is no right answer.
It’s very personalized and all very situational. What works for one woman might not work for another. Someone might have figured out the best routine for their lifestyle but another person might think it’s completely unrealistic.
I have, luckily, found a great way that works for me and helps me somewhat keep my sanity.
I believe I can have it all at the same time, I just can’t expect myself to be an expert in each and every area.
I have all of my priorities in life clearly defined, and although I have long term goals I’m able to compartmentalize and prioritize daily. More than anything, for me what works best is to stay organized and plan ahead, but also to set my tasks and goals daily for what absolutely needs to be done.
What’s it really like being a working woman, and a working mom? Organized Chaos. Often, it’s a little heavier on the chaos side and not so much organized, but we always manage to get everything done. Not always on time or perfectly executed, but nonetheless it gets done.
I try to focus on balancing my career and family, and ironically having more responsibilities keeps me focused. Necessity forces me to re-prioritize and to stay organized and on task.
Here are a few tips I use to keep myself motivated and on task:
1) Prioritize your tasks and/or what you want to accomplish daily to create realistic goals
Every night before I fall asleep, I’m mentally preparing for the next day. What meetings do I have at work? Do the kids have any special events we need to attend? Do I have any board meetings? Do I need to run any errands? What’s for dinner? Once I know what needs to be done, I start to prioritize. If I don’t have time to fit everything in, I’ll focus on what absolutely needs to be done and/or has time constraints (like meetings or after-school events) that can’t be moved. Then I’ll figure out what absolutely needs to be done but is somewhat flexible. If I have to get groceries for dinner, I can plan that errand around the other tasks that can’t be changed.
I make it a point to explain to the kids as well, so they understand that just because I may not have as much time for them on a specific day doesn’t mean that I don’t have time for them at all. Sometimes my kids have to be patient and flexible, and sometimes my career has to be flexible. There are slow days at work during the summer where I’ll take a vacation day and spend it at the zoo with the kids and some friends.
2) Stay Organized and make a list! Or 100…
When things get overwhelming, make a list and stay organized. Spend a couple of minutes at night thinking about everything you need/want/hope to accomplish the next day and write them down. If you’re working on multiple projects, whether personal or career related, keep track of everything you still need to work on. If projects seem too big, break them down into smaller goals/tasks and make a list of what’s been accomplished and what’s next. When you have something concrete to go back to, it’s always easier to keep track of them and not forget anything. I know that if I go to a grocery store and I don’t have a list handy, I’m bound to forget something. And because I have so much going on at any given time, if I don’t make a note of it on my phone to keep track of what my next steps are I very quickly get overwhelmed. Whenever I sit down and prioritize and make a list, I immediately become a lot less stressed and get focused again.
3) Simplify your life and keep a loose routine, but be flexible enough for whatever pops up.
I know this sounds conflicting, but it really makes sense. I have a pretty good routine down. My days are pretty much all the same, or have similar activities that rotate. So I know what to expect and there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel every day to get stuff done. But because kids and life can be unpredictable, you can’t be so stuck in your routine that if anything deviates from the norm you lose track of everything. Be flexible enough that when something unexpected comes up you can adjust your routine quickly enough to keep your day moving. I keep the kids on a routine as well so they always know what to expect. They know exactly what needs to be done in the morning while getting ready for school. Even though we might need to remind them or make sure they aren’t going to be late, when they already know what they need to do it’s less time for you to continuously remind them.
4) Try not to be so hard on yourself, or forget about taking care of yourself.
This is important for all women, but especially working moms. We go through the “mom guilt” daily. When we’re at work, we’re missing the kids. When we’re with the kids, we’re feeling guilty for not putting in more time at work. It’s an endless cycle, and we put constant pressure on ourselves to be the best in every aspect of our lives. We strive for perfection, and are so hard on ourselves when we can’t reach the unrealistic goals we set for ourselves. We also forget to take care of ourselves. This is so important because if we get burnt out we won’t be good for anyone and won’t get anything done. There is a saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. And it’s so true. Make sure to schedule some “Me” time in your hectic days, spend a little extra time on whatever it is that helps you de-stress and unwind after your long day.
5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
This was always something I struggled with. I wanted to get everything done and I felt I needed to do it myself. I was so focused on getting things done the “right way” or “my way” that I wouldn’t ask for help, and I wouldn’t let anyone help either. I got exhausted and couldn’t keep up, and for what? So what if my husband folded the towels the “wrong way.” It’s not that important. What matters is that it got done when it needed to be done. Same goes for anything else. If I can’t make it to pick up the kids from school one day, I’m not afraid of calling my husband and letting him know that I need some extra help. When we share the tasks and we ask for help, whether it’s from our spouses or family members or friends, it helps us get things done without letting anything fall off the table. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. We can still be super women and know when to ask for help.
About the author:
Taharah Saad is a full time electrical engineer in the automotive industry with over 10 years of experience, and a mom to three amazing kids ages 11, 9, and 2. She also serves on the Executive Board of the Arab American Women's Business Council and is the producer/creative lead of Her Path to Success, a professional development series. She founded GlassCeilingBreakers on Instagram with the goal of helping empower and motivate women to achieve their personalized vision of success.