Imagine this: a working mother, up at dawn. Her day begins in a whirlwind — preparing breakfast, feeding the kids, packing lunches, and ensuring everyone is ready to face the day, all while bracing herself for her professional tasks. The moment she steps into her work mode, the mental strain is palpable. The pile of laundry, the evening meal to be cooked, and the homework waiting for her kids — all of it looms over her day, already busy and filled to the brim.
Now picture another woman — no children, but the weight of imbalance is no less real. Her work life bleeds into her personal life, extending well beyond the typical nine-to-five routine, leaving her gasping for breath. Striving to advance in her career, managing a social life, maintaining fitness, and squeezing in enough sleep — all of this leaves her feeling spread thin. Work-life balance, for her, seems more like an unreachable mirage than a feasible goal.
This is a daily reality for countless women across the world. The lack of time is a profound issue, particularly for women juggling professional and domestic roles. Studies reveal that women in developed countries spend double the amount of time on unpaid work like cooking, cleaning, and child care compared to their male counterparts. This time disparity skyrockets to 3.4 times in developing countries.
In many instances, this discrepancy stems from entrenched societal beliefs and gender expectations dictating women’s roles. However, at times, the inequality is more subtly woven into our daily routines. Much of a woman’s time is devoured by the so-called ‘hidden load' — tasks like planning meals, arranging kids’ playdates, or simply bearing the emotional labor, which often fly under the radar of economic indicators.
This time poverty, spurred on by both visible and hidden responsibilities, can push women, especially caregivers, towards either exiting the workforce or gravitating towards lower-paid jobs.
So, the critical question that surfaces is: How can women achieve work-life balance today?
In this article, we dive deep into exploring this question and offering feasible solutions. Our aim is to navigate the murky waters of work-life balance, helping women from all walks of life discover their own equilibrium.
It’s not just about surviving the day; it’s about thriving in every aspect of life.
Why Is Work Life Balance Important For Women?
As we venture further into the intricacies of work-life balance, we unearth the critical question: why is this equilibrium so essential for women?
1. Healthier Body And Mind
The first and perhaps most vital reason is the well-being of our body and mind. A skewed balance between our professional and personal lives can significantly strain our health, with research backing this assertion.
For instance, a study revealed that European working adults experiencing work-life conflict often reported poor health. Similarly, another research in Poland pointed to a lower work-life balance leading to worse mental and physical health among the middle class.
The constant grind can also spark stress and burnout, potentially paving the way for mental disorders like anxiety and depression. In essence, maintaining a healthy balance is pivotal to safeguarding our overall health.
2. More Present and Engaged
Here, we’re talking about engagement – in work and in life. We have only so much energy – physical and mental – to go around. When we’re constantly stretched thin, our ability to be wholly present and engaged in our roles — as an employee, parent, or partner — diminishes.
Achieving balance ensures we’re giving our best to all facets of our life, not favoring one over the other.
3. A More Fulfilling Life
True fulfillment is achieved when we can maintain a satisfying balance between work and life. Today’s woman is far more than just a worker or a caregiver — she’s both and often, even more. Women today are making significant strides in their careers, raising families, and finding time for activities that bring them joy.
Yet, as we reach for the stars, we must remember that without managing our time and energy wisely, we risk feeling more dissatisfied as we spread ourselves too thin.
Because let’s face it — life is too short to not live with joy. In a world where women are achieving more than ever before, finding that elusive work-life balance becomes crucial.
How to Regain Your Work Life Balance
Now that we’ve established why maintaining work-life balance is essential, let’s explore some strategies to regain control and restore balance in your life.
1. Say ‘No’ More Often
There’s no need to feel guilty for saying no to demands that stretch you too thin.
Often, women find themselves overcommitting because of the dual pressures of their roles as caregivers and professionals. However, it’s crucial to recognize when your plate is too full, and taking on more could leave you overwhelmed and affect your performance.
Clear communication about your boundaries, especially regarding overwork, is vital. For instance, when assigned a new project while already juggling several tasks, you might say, “I appreciate your confidence in my work, but I currently have several projects that require my full attention. I wouldn’t be able to give this the focus it deserves.”
If you need more tips on how to say no, Leo Babauta’s advice may help: The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life
2. Schedule Regular Breaks
The fast-paced modern life often leads us to deprioritize self-care, dismissing it as a luxury.
However, setting aside time for oneself is not merely a treat—it’s a necessity. It allows you to decompress, recharge, and gain a fresh perspective. Maybe it’s a weekly yoga class, reading for pleasure in the evening, or a peaceful morning walk before the day’s rush begins. These are moments when you can listen to yourself, attend to your needs, and cultivate personal growth.
Regular breaks can also improve your overall productivity and cognitive function. They serve as stress-release valves, providing temporary reprieve from continuous work and helping to keep burnout at bay.
Take a look at these 23 Self-Care Ideas For Women To Rewind to get inspired.
3. Seek Flexibility at Work
Many traditional work environments adhere strictly to the 9-5 routine, but the realities of life, especially for women, often require a more flexible approach.
Don’t hesitate to have a candid conversation with your employer or manager about your needs. If you’re a parent, there may be times when you need to be home with your children, or you might benefit from an occasional day working from home to focus without office distractions.
Flexible work hours can also be beneficial, allowing you to work during your most productive times or accommodate school runs and other personal commitments.
In many cases, employers are willing to offer these options, understanding that a happier, less stressed employee is also a more productive one.
4. Don’t Shy Away from Asking for Help
Society often pressures women into believing they should be able to ‘do it all,’ but this is neither realistic nor healthy.
Whether it’s enlisting your partner to share household chores or talking to your manager about delegating tasks when your workload is too high, it’s okay to ask for assistance. This doesn’t mean you’re failing. It means you’re human.
Moreover, you can turn household chores into valuable life lessons for your kids. For example, teaching them to do their laundry not only reduces your workload but also equips them with a necessary life skill, fostering independence and responsibility.
5. Connect with Other Women
As the saying goes, “no man (or woman) is an island.” We humans are innately social creatures and thrive on connection.
Joining clubs, online communities, or local groups that provide a space for women to connect can offer a profound sense of shared understanding and solidarity. These platforms enable women to share experiences, discuss common challenges, and learn from one another.
They can also serve as valuable resources for advice, or merely offer a safe space to vent without judgment.
These connections can be a source of comfort, motivation, and even inspiration. They remind us that we’re not alone in our struggles and that it’s okay to lean on each other.
Additionally, if you’re a working mom trying to balance career and family, I highly recommend reading 13 Ways Working Moms Can Balance Work and Family (And Be Happy).
Remember, work-life balance doesn’t mean distributing your time and energy perfectly between work and personal life. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The balance that works for you may differ from what works for others, and that’s perfectly okay. It may require some trial and error, but finding the right balance for your unique situation is integral to leading a more fulfilling life.
Work and life are not adversaries; thriving in one doesn’t necessitate sacrificing the other. For a realistic work-life balance, check out this Work-Life Integration Framework shared by LifeHack’s CEO.
There’s no universal solution for work-life balance because we each carry our unique weights and joys, struggles and triumphs.
Striking a balance between work and personal life might seem like a daunting task, but with the above strategies, you’re one step closer to creating a harmonious, fulfilling life.
Remember, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon. One step at a time.
Don't have time for the full article? Read this.
Women, especially those who have children, often face ‘time poverty’ due to disproportionate amounts of unpaid work, like housework and caregiving, as well as the ‘hidden load’ of mental and emotional labor.
Work-life balance is crucial for women’s physical and mental health. Imbalance can lead to stress, burnout, and mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
A good work-life balance allows women to be more engaged both at work and at home, leading to improved performance in professional and personal roles.
Achieving work-life balance can bring more fulfillment to life, enabling women to be successful in their careers and as parents, and enjoy life more.
Regaining work-life balance can be achieved through several strategies: 1) Learn to say ‘no’ when overwhelmed; 2) Schedule regular breaks for self-care and personal growth; 3) Seek flexibility at work, such as remote work or flexible working hours; 4) Ask for help when needed, both at home and at work; 5) Connect with other women through clubs and communities.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for work-life balance. Each woman has to find what balance means for her unique contexts and needs.
Achieving work-life balance is a journey that requires self-discovery and may require trial and error. It’s about creating a fulfilling life rather than a perfectly balanced one.
|||^||J Glob Health.: Time poverty: Obstacle to women’s human rights, health and sustainable development|
|||^||BBC: The hidden load: How ‘thinking of everything’ holds mums back|
|||^||BMC Public Health: Work-life balance and self-reported health among working adults in Europe: a gender and welfare state regime comparative analysis|
|||^||Int J Environ Res Public Health.: Work–Life Balance and Mental and Physical Health among Warsaw Specialists, Managers and Entrepreneurs|
|||^||Frontiers in Psychology: The Relationship Between Burnout, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis|