When Work and Life Get Overwhelming… Step Back to the Shore

It’s been almost 10 years since I became a mom and a business owner, back to back.  I tried my best to prepare, but each role involved a lot of “learn as you go”.  One of my biggest challenges personally was finding a way to meet the needs of both of these high-demand tasks, simultaneously.

When things got tough – and trust me, they often did – I told myself I needed to find a better way to achieve balance. I wanted to be a loving, caring mother while also performing as a kick-butt career professional.  I felt that with some time and effort I could reach an exact stability. Yet striving for perfection held me back.

After several years of precarious efforts I stumbled across an article by a mompreneur that said something along the lines of:

Raising kids while managing your own business is like standing on the beach near the ocean watching the waves roll in.  You want to be in there riding every wave of opportunity, but sometimes you have to sit patiently on the shore to attend to the things that need you the most.  Waves will continue to roll in; when the timing is right, jump back in.

This analogy hit home for me.  It rang true.  I didn’t have to chase and ride every, single wave.  It was ok to let some waves roll by as I tended to the things that mattered ‘on shore’.  There would be more waves; more opportunities.

With this in mind, I was able to let go of the relentless pursuit to ‘do it all’ and find that elusive perfect balance. I could ride the waves of highs and lows at a pace that worked for me, doing my best not to lose sight of the shore (the things that mattered most…my anchor).

Truthfully, balance is different for everyone and it doesn’t exist in any one perfect form. Some of my fellow colleagues agree.

Sharon Graham, the Executive Director of Career Professionals of Canada shares that: “I am most successful when I “blend” my entrepreneurial life with my personal life. I am doing what I love and so the lines between work and personal life are blurred.”

Maureen McCann of Promotion Career Solutions agrees that she doesn’t balance. She also blends. In her post Don’t Balance. Blend!  she recommends that we “stop trying to balance a myriad of unconnected goals from different areas of life, whether they involve family, finances, fitness, career, or love. Instead, blend your goals into one incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.”

The strategies needed to succeed in both work and life will certainly vary person to person, but to help ease stress Sharon recommends regular work breaks to spend time with the people in your life.  In addition she shares her personal strategy for keeping things well-blended: “I purposely schedule ‘tea time’ at the end of the day, just to relax and take a breather. When I feel happy and healthy, I find that I am vastly more productive. Blending work and life allows me to best meet the needs of my family and my community of practitioners.”

Janet Barclay, the founder of Organized Assistant, shares a similar strategy: “I manage work/life balance by stopping work at 5 pm every day and closing my office door. On weekends I often find myself at my computer by default, so I need to plan personal activities such as family visits, lunch with friends, or mini photography expeditions to keep that from happening. I also started a personal blog to combine my passion for my work with my leisure activities.”

Finally, Maureen reminds us all that we aren’t alone in this process: “People want to help you. It’s true. If given the opportunity to help someone close to you, you would, wouldn’t you?  Maureen further stresses that if we need change, or want change, it is up to us to make that happen: “It’s your job to make yourself happy. No one will do it for you – not your spouse, your kids, your best friend, or your boss. It’s you, just you.”

With these thoughts in mind, lessen your burdens and stop trying to reach a level of perfection that might not be attainable.  Instead, employ strategies to support goals and happiness that are in better harmony with your unique life and work situation.  Don’t be shy to take the reins and make decisions that work best for YOU, asking for helping along the way.

If the water is stormy today and you aren’t getting the results you want or need, step back to the shore.  There will be calmer waters soon. Watch for that well-timed wave …and jump in.



Adrienne Tom is an entrepreneur, mompreneur, and careerpreneur.  She owns and operates Career Impressions and is the co-founder of CareerPreneur Partners.


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