Balancing Family & Work During the Holidays: A Real Woman’s Guide with 4 Tips
Tricia Sciortino, President of eaHELP shares her tips on juggling work and family during the holidays.
In my journey starting as the first employee of eaHELP to becoming the company’s current president, I wasn’t alone; I had two daughters who needed me just as much as the business did.
I believed I could have it all: a career, family, and peace of mind. I believed this because I had to. After leaving work to be a full-time mom, I became stir-crazy in about three months. I missed people, being around adults, critical thinking conversations, and the excitement of seeing a project come to fruition. So I went back to work — part-time at first and full-time once they reached elementary school age — and I can honestly say I’m a better mom because I’m fulfilled by my work when my kids are gone during the day.
My present peace of mind surrounding “having it all” doesn’t come without its challenges, and finding the balance requires major planning ahead of time to negotiate everything into the jigsaw puzzle that is our life — especially during the holidays. Here are my top four tips to balancing career and family and staying sane during the most wonderful (and hectic) time of the year.
Use Vacation Wisely — And Use it!
There were many years when I didn’t use my PTO. I felt I had to be “plugged in” consistently in order to serve my clients, honor the company, and do my job well. This kind of thinking, however, is — let’s be honest — total garbage. Taking a step back every now and then ultimately serves to refresh your state of mind, allowing you to do better quality work and not burn out. The key is to actually take that step back. For starters, the kids’ Winter Break is a no-brainer. Even if you can’t go all out for a two-week family stay in Hawaii this year, block out the first and last several days of their break for some good quality family time. This will allow you to touch base at the beginning of a break, starting things off at the right pace, and then bond before the new year ramps up.
Forget the Mom Guilt
Whether we’re feeling guilty for working and not being with our kids, or being with our kids and not working, moms don’t have it easy and we’re often our own biggest enemy. My best advice: stop feeling guilty. Easier said than done, you say, so how does a woman actually do this? First, pat yourself on the back — better yet, give yourself a hug. The truth is, if your work fulfills you and you’re a happier person because of it, you’re doing your kids a huge service by being a more whole, enjoyable person to be around. This is a gift to them, and one of the best holiday presents they could ever receive. The trick is being able to be completely present while you’re with them during the holidays. That leads to Tip #3.
Identify the Most Important Moments.
It’s not always the case that you can take the full two or three weeks off work while your kids are on break. This is where identifying key moments during their vacation can help to balance family and work time. During the year, for example, one of my daughters comes home from school at 2:30 p.m. I intentionally take half of my lunch break to spend with her during this time and let my team know I won’t be reachable in that timeframe. My daughter and I then have this space together to talk about her day, get her settled in, and discuss the homework she has. The same kind of approach can apply to the holidays. Identify the moments when it would be most important and valuable to have you accessible and interacting with your kids so that you can carve out time while still accomplishing everything you need to for your career.
Use Their School Calendar.
As we head into 2016, it’s the perfect time to chart out our new schedule for the year. Instead of wracking my brain about how to spread out my PTO throughout the year (or waiting for it to pile up at the end of the year, when I can’t possibly take that many days off at once), I use my girls’ school calendar as an easy guide. For example, I deliberately add to work calendar all of their school events and days off. I designate those times — special performances, school lunches, and no-school days — for my own PTO. This also allows me to touch base with their school and stay connected with their teachers. This way I don’t have to feel torn if I’m not able to take a long vacation during summer or winter because I’ve strategically spaced out my PTO for quality family time throughout the year. Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day? I won’t be working because the kids aren’t at school. It’s that simple.
No one said having it all was easy. But with a little strategic planning and some quick times to refocus here and there, you can reach a point where the balance is real. This is the greatest gift to not only your family but to yourself, at any time of the year.