Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she and a friend decided to play house. They agreed that my daughter would be the mommy and her friend would be the daddy. Once roles were decided, my daughter picked up a picture book, placed it on her lap, and started to pretend to type. When I asked her what she was doing, she looked at me and said, “I’m working! I’m the mommy!”

Juggling a rewarding career and a happy family life is hard work. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. I am fortunate to have a legal career that allows me to work on strategic projects where I can stretch and grow, and have a supportive husband and thoughtful daughters who keep me grounded. Some days I feel like I have a handle on it all—work is going to plan, my team is running effectively, and the house is clean. Other times work and home priorities clash, and there is just not enough time to do things as well as I think they should be done.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to managing work and family, there are a few practices that I use to help me manage my career and family life:  

  • Set boundaries. It is not uncommon to block off time during the workday to concentrate on a deliverable. It should also be the same for family life. I schedule personal activities that are important in my calendar. For instance, at the beginning of the school year, I schedule school holidays, events, and concerts in advance. It is not about being inflexible. Sometimes, I may have to travel and miss my daughter’s piano recital or work during a holiday. But if I do not plan ahead, my calendar can quickly fill up with work and leave no room for family life.
  • Strive for excellence, and not perfection. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect employee and the perfect mother. Successfully managing work and family life is not defined by being able to know it all or do it all. Perfection is an impossible standard. When we strive for excellence, we still aim high, but we learn from our mistakes and do not let them define us.
  • Cultivate support systems. We are allowed to lean on others and be candid about our struggles. We need to intentionally establish support systems, so that we are not on our own. We are made better by coworkers, mentors, and sponsors who help us thrive in the workplace; and by spouses, extended family, and caregivers who support us at home.

Working full-time and being a mother comes with rewards and challenges. Managing a career and family requires constant modifications, compromises, and sacrifices.  

Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? You bet.