Juggling work and life without being miserable is one of the biggest challenges many of us face. Sandra Kaji-O’Grady ponders how to do it.
In universities I’ve encountered numerous programs designed to support women’s careers in academia. I’m aware that some of the big architectural practices also engage consultancies to run programs on leadership and teamwork. But none of these programs seem to address the stuff that I really struggle with, which is loosely around how to work full-time yet have a life beyond, a life not made miserable by the demands of work.
In Australia’s cities, two-income families are now the norm, yet there’s no simple way to do this without going mad. I’ve found the best advice comes from other women and is essentially pragmatic. When I asked a colleague how she managed to have a successful career and be a parent of school-age twins, without hesitation or further elaboration, she replied “Dinner Ladies. I’ll send you their address.” I’m now addicted to hearty affordable dinners delivered freshly cooked each Wednesday. It’s a booming business set up by a couple of mothers of school-age children who have witnessed the frantic pace of the families around them. I know other women who have their own strategies for getting by – tailored suiting, car-pooling, live-in au pairs, pet-free apartment living, swimming during lunch break, generous grandparents, et cetera. How do you do it?
May 14, 2012
This is a question I am dying to hear the answer to from other women. I have been a full time working mother, as an academic within architecture for almost two years and somehow have managed to stay a float. Just recently I am starting to feel the toll of the juggle and beginning to doubt whether I have it in me, especially since I have now started my PhD. My life is chaotic, my house is a mess, my office is a mess, my inbox is out of control but my son and husband seem happy, I think my students are happy, and my colleagues are ok with my contributions. I feel tired and sometimes frantic…I think the staying constantly busy has been the solution, where there has been little time to think and just had to do. Mostly trying to keep work stuff away from home has helped but is often difficult to do. I am wondering if there is a cooking service in Brisbane? We could definitely use one! I would love a cleaner but can’t justify the expense and have just received a child bike seat. The only way I can fit exercise in is if it fits into the drop off or commute. I hope this works and am waiting to hear what others have to say…
Jun 5, 2012
I love this. ‘There’s no simple way to do this without going mad’ – too true, I have certainly experienced this feeling in the past!
Three things that work for me;
• Time to reflect. Give myself time to figure out what really matters to me – keep these things first and foremost at all times, and say a resounding NO to things that may seem important but don’t really matter (I have found exercise matters – it makes everything else easier, time wandering aimlessly with my kids matters, picking design jobs that I feel passionate about(and get properly paid for) matters, holding my husband to doing his share of the kid duties matters.. doing any job that is offered does NOT matter, stressing over how other architects might view my work/career progression does NOT matter, doing things to please others before considering myself/family not only doesn’t matter – it’s downright dangerous)
• Getting organised. Spend time (as much as needed, it takes a while) establishing systems and routines that work for me and my family (When there is a place for everything and everyone knows their role – home duties get done sooo much quicker.. and I am so much calmer/happier/pleasant to be around.. same for my working life)
• Listen to my intuition. My inner sense is the best gauge of how well my sanity, my family and my career are doing – independent of the views of others. I know when I/we are ‘on-track’ or ‘off’ and following this inner-knowledge is always the best path.
These might not be the same for everyone but, personally, realising and implementing these key things has changed my life (not to be melodramatic or anything). Rather than feeling at the mercy of forces outside of my control, I now feel as though I have taken the reigns for myself and my family and I am steering us all in the best possible direction. It is a lovely feeling, I highly recommend it.
Jun 6, 2012
On a more day-to-day pragmatic note – I love my cleaners (once a fortnight, can’t live without them), my slow-cooker (prepare in the morning or at lunch – dinner is done!), my parents & parents-in-law (they love my kids, I love them looking after my kids, win-win), baby-sitting swaps (you look after mine, I’ll look after yours), training my kids to do more for themselves (apparently it is also good for their self-confidence) and a wonderful husband who takes on a good 50% of the kid/home duty load (with only the occasional need for a prod).