“I call it the box of cereal moment,” Samantha Walravens reflects as she describes the night when she officially decided that she needed to find a way to resolve her internal work-life balance crisis.
Pregnant with her second child and with a 3-year-old at home, Samantha’s Silicon Valley start-up was in the midst of a huge project — an IPO. After an unusually long workday, Samantha arrived home in the evening to find her should-be-pajama-clad toddler and husband sitting at the table posing the following question – “What’s for dinner?”
Enter: box of cereal.
Samantha is the first to admit that she doesn’t view this as her finest moment, but rather a turning point. At that moment Samantha decided that subscribing to the “do-it-all” mantra was, in a word, making her crazy. She was determined to find the true answers to work-family success.
Reaching out for support, Samantha gathered the stories of other women, hoping to pick up advice on how to become the “do-it-all” mom. What she got in return was something even better, sound advice from other working moms who didn’t necessarily subscribe to the “do-it-all” philosophy.
So what can working mothers do? Below are four work-life balance tips Samantha lives by:
1. Communication is key, at work and at home. At work, don’t be afraid to keep an open line of communication with your boss. This includes being vocal about successes, but also knowing when to ask questions or for help to make sure the job gets done. At home, talk with your partner or family about sharing responsibilities—teamwork is a critical component of achieving work-family balance.
2. Draw a line between work and home. When possible, it’s important to unplug. This goes for when you’re at home, but also when you’re at work. When you’re at work, do your best to avoid becoming distracted by personal matters so that you don’t feel guilty about spending your undivided attention with your family, after hours. If you’re able to optimize your workday, it’s that much easier to leave work at the office.
3. Say no to guilt. Get rid of the word “should” and do not internalize what people say you “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing when it comes to your family. You know what’s best for you, and your family.
4. Don’t compare yourself to other women; support them. It’s not about “keeping up with the Joneses,” it’s about living in the moment and being thankful for what you have. If you see other women doing incredible things, there is no need for envy or jealousy. Let’s support and uplift each other, not criticize and compete.
A note from Samantha: “I am constantly learning from my family. My children have taught me how to slow down and enjoy each moment. I often find that my favorite moments are when I’m out hiking or taking a road trip with my family—technology off, distractions away. It’s beautiful. And honestly, one of the most frustrating times is STILL dinnertime, but we find ways to make it enjoyable. At the end of the day, I know that I have my family that wants to spend time with me no matter how much I’ve accomplished professionally, and I love that.”
Samantha Parent Walravens is an award-winning journalist, writer and mother of four children. Her writing has appeared in publications including the Huffington Post, Modern Mom, Healthy Women, Yahoo! News, Salon.com, Urban Baby, PC World and several “mommy blogs.” She has been a guest on The Today Show, Good Morning America, NPR Radio and ABC News Radio. Her book, Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, was chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for its Motherlode book club, and reached #1 on Amazon.com for books in the Motherhood category. Samantha is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University and has a Masters in Literature and Women’s Studies from the University of Virginia.