The Mother of All Balancing Acts

You don't have to choose between a briefcase and a diaper bag. Here are proven strategies toward a more rewarding work and family life.

to Diahann McFarlane, an urban studies-community health research analyst at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Three years into her decade-long marriage, serious problems began to surface and her relationship with her husband began to sour. “I was taking a few classes here and there, but I decided to turn it into a full-time academic pursuit,” says McFarlane, 35. Her decision to further her career by earning a master’s degree in science-environmental studies from New Jersey’s Farleigh Dickinson University only worsened matters in her already tension-filled home.

“I felt that my going back to school would not only improve my marketability as a scientist but help inspire my husband to improve upon his own skills,” says McFarlane, whose husband was between jobs at the time. Though he was home with their two children, now ages eight and 12, “he wouldn’t do more around the house, and got angry if I asked my relatives to help out,” especially when she had to travel for business. McFarlane says that the more she advanced at work, the worse things seemed to get at home. Their divorce is pending.

While this may seem like an extreme example, it does happen-and more often than many would like to admit. Even today, a woman choosing to pursue a career is thought of by some as rejecting her maternal duties. This can place serious strain on a marriage and put working mothers-even those who work because they must-between a rock and a hard place. So what’s a career mom to do?

It’s impossible to eliminate the sometimes viselike pressure of taking care of business at home and at work. With some help, however, you can reduce it significantly. Indeed, the key to trying to have it all is to not do it all by yourself. Here are a few practical tips that can make a big difference in bringing about more balance between both sides of your hectic life.

Tip #1: Take really good care of yourself
After a long day as a pension specialist for Clifton Savings Bank in New Jersey, Kelley picks up her five children-ranging in age from six weeks to 13 years-from their day-care and after-school programs. Then, she cooks dinner, helps the kids with their homework, puts them to bed and does some laundry. “By the time I’m finished, it’s already past 9 p.m.”

This schedule, five days a week, obviously leaves little room for personal time. But Kelley isn’t about to quit her job or stop nurturing those around her. Most working mothers-you might include yourself among them-believe that they have to give even more of themselves in order to do both jobs successfully. Thus, the importance of this pointer may not sit well initially.

“Putting yourself at the top of your priority list does seem selfish,” says Linda Dominguez, owner of Executive Coaching and Resource Network in West Lake Village, California. “But you cannot expect to give to others what you don’t have yourself.”

Kelley agrees. With an infant, she doesn’t have a lot of time

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