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Work-life balance: We all want it, some of us have it, others are searching for it and many feel like it’s a joke.

Add kids to the mix of your career dynamics and the concept becomes even more elusive. Now in addition to meeting deadlines, paying the bills and striving for that promotion, you’re dealing with sleep deprivation, child care coordination and most of all – mommy guilt. Despite having a job that I loved, this was the negative narrative playing through my head as a working mom.

womat making a phone call at work

Before my daughter was born, I did my research and secured a spot at the best daycare just minutes from the office. It would be easy; I would simply drop the baby at daycare each morning and head off to climb the corporate ladder. Then, at exactly 5 p.m., I’d leave the office and return home feeling energized after a stimulating day at the office, ready to care for my family each night. I naively assumed that it would not only be possible to have it all, but that I was entitled to have it all.

If you’re reading this, chances are you know about the reality (and panic) that sets in once the baby arrives and you return to work. I knew I needed to make changes to both my schedule and perspective in order to achieve some type of balance in my life.

My journey of finding and maintaining a work-life balance is always evolving. Over the years, I’ve learned to approach things with creativity, an open mind and a decent attitude. When I feel like the balance is slipping away, I keep the following in mind.

1. Nothing in life is permanent: At some point, all things (both good and bad) come to an end: the late night feedings, teething, sleepless nights, toddler-clinging-to-your-legs at daycare drop off. These things that consume your energy and push you to the edge – they really do end. They are replaced with new challenges as well as opportunities. Even your job doesn’t last forever.

stressed woman can't fall asleep

2. Know your priorities and align your actions: Climbing the corporate ladder became less important to me after I had my daughter, but not so much that I was willing to give up my career. However, I was willing to take a pay cut if it meant more time with my child. We reevaluated our budget and made cuts where we could. Things didn’t happen overnight, but within two years I found a job in my career field that also allowed me to spend more time with my family. Building a bigger home and taking lavish vacations are not part of our budget right now and we’re okay with that. Maintaining my career and staying current with industry trends is still important to me, even if I’m not rising to the rank of VP status. That means I have dedicated work hours and still devote some time to professional development. I’m also not afraid to say no to volunteer requests or invitations to social functions if they conflict with the time I set aside for my work. Ultimately, if something doesn’t align with my priorities, it doesn’t get added to my to-do list.

3. Acceptance, appreciation and being in the moment: Easier said than done, right? Just scroll through your Facebook feed and let the comparing begin! Accepting our current situation, appreciating what we have (resources, health, family, friendships) and being fully present plays a major role in our perception of work-life balance. It’s also just a good outlook to have on life. Why? Because nothing in life is permanent!

4. Make time for YOU: Taking care of yourself is essential to being a better parent, spouse, colleague, friend or person in general. Everyone struggles with not having enough time, or we justify that we are simply too busy taking care of everyone else to make time for ourselves. But, here’s the deal: You don’t need anyone’s approval to take care of yourself and nobody likes a martyr. What are the things you do that help you manage stress and stay healthy? For me its exercise. Fitting in a 30 to 45 minute workout most days is a priority for me and my family respects that. We work together to coordinate schedules so that I can take a class at the gym or meet up with a friend for a trail run. It’s never easy to find that time for myself but I never regret making the effort. I’m also setting a good example for my child.

Work-life balance looks different for every individual, every family and it changes over time. We must continually evaluate and be willing to make adjustments when necessary. Achieving and maintaining balance isn’t easy but it’s certainly worth trying.