Over the past 15 years, I have married, had four children— all while getting through medical school, doing my residency, and launching my own private practice. Today, I realize that as a working mom, you’re never quite sure that you’re doing the right things, using the right tactics and tricks to get through the day in the most efficient way possible.
Achieving balanced, harmonious living with respect to our family life, career and community involvement can certainly be achieved with the correct addition of key ingredients. With humility, drive and a clear path to our goals, we can have our proverbial cake and eat it too!
A key ingredient to achieving this is the right mindset and attitude: unwavering optimism coupled with yoking your intrinsic motivation and inner strength is the foundation upon which all other elements of successful balanced living is built.
- Start with a plan:It’s not about doing more for your family or your career, but about doing things better. That’s why having a plan is important. In creating your plan, personal feelings and your own sense of responsibility should take precedence over cultural norms and learned gender roles. Where are you willing to compromise? What are you not willing to give up? Planning helps you be able to re-evaluate and stay up-to-date on the right choices at the time, and to keep your dreams and your vision in sync with your life as it changes and as you change with it.
- Figure out what drives you at work. Is it money, recognition, contribution? This will put your professional life in focus.
- Make peace with your choices. The goal is not to win accolades for being the ‘best parent in the world’, but to make sure you enjoy the journey along the way and keep learning. Being a good parent boils down to you being happy at the end of the day. It’s this satisfaction that trickles down to your kids and family.
- Maintain a ‘master’ home calendar.Our home calendar is organized on a large dry erase board and is located prominently in the kitchen like a billboard over the freeway. Jason and the children see it every day and the daily exposures reinforces all the deadlines that need to be met and tasks that need to be done. Everyone pitches in their input for what goes on the calendar, which includes everything from chores to activities for the weekend. I also color code tasks and activities to highlight their importance and priority. Have all your school-age children keep a planner and/or calendar, too.
- Become familiar with your partner’s schedule and use it to your advantage. Not only is it a good idea to distinguish which days are the most flexible for you, but also to familiarize yourself with when your partner has free time or a lighter workload. For example, Jason works half-days on Wednesdays. This means he can leave the office and take Zarina, Anisa and Nadia to their karate lessons, which gives me the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with my son Adam.
- Keep an eye on finances. Spend wisely, buy discounted items, and use coupons and deals. Wait for items to go on sale at the store; a little patience provides big savings. Become a member of discount shopping stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club. Try crowd savings coupon services, like Groupon and LivingSocial, which offer discounts as deep as 50 percent off for dinners, spa and salon visits, and even vacations. Department stores often offer reward coupons in the mail. Watch out for mailers that highlight special grocery items that are on sale that day and take advantage. Teach your kids financial literacy from a very young age.
- Get the family involved in organizing. As a family, we’re very much a big believer in D-I-Y when it comes to organizing and hosting parties. We rarely hire caterers and outside help when holding an event, not only because you save money, but we also think it’s just more fun that way. For example, last year, we held a Thanksgiving celebration at our home. Not only were we celebrating Thanksgiving but also the arrival of a new baby cousin. We asked the girls to act as the liaisons for their cousins, planning the activities and making sure all the young guests were entertained.
As modern women, at different ages and stages of life we each have various permutations of what’s important to us in life. Creating a visualized plan and goals for yourself is one of the most important steps in the process of not only achieving but maintaining harmony in your life.
Dr. Mom ( A. Palamono, MD)