Tips for Achieving a Work-Life Balance

Despite representing half of the American workforce,  women are still responsible for an average of 242 minutes of unpaid work each day, mainly in the form of domestic labor, while men average only 148 minutes of unpaid chores.  Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined this imbalance of domestic labor “the second shift,” and it has become an important talking point in conversations around gender equality. Women who are balancing work with family life can take steps to gain the support they need and find resources to feel less overwhelmed and mentally healthier.

Create and Implement a Chore Chart

Sometimes a frank conversation needs to take place in order for others to understand your needs. While delegating responsibility can feel like a task in itself, it may be a necessary initial step to motivate your family to help out. While a chore chart can be an effective way to get your husband and children to assist with basic household tasks, like laundry, grocery shopping and vacuuming, a similar method can also work with extended family members regarding tasks outside the home. Single women also find themselves in the position of taking on a disproportionate amount of emotional labor, such as caring for sick or elderly relatives. Making arrangements to divide work between siblings, cousins and friends can help make life more manageable.

Know Your Rights as An Employee

While only 17% of US workers are provided paid parental leave, nearly 60% are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  Taking advantage of your right to family and medical leave gives you time to recover, adjust and bond with your newborn.  FMLA laws can also apply to new fathers and to employers who are caring for sick relatives. Unfortunately, time off under FMLA is unpaid,  however, policies are shifting in certain parts of the country to provide a percentage of your salary while you’re on leave. Some states also allow new mothers to receive short-term disability benefits, which covers a percentage of lost wages to subsidize your leave.  If you need to take unpaid leave from work, look for ways to save to help minimize the financial burden.

Strategize to Save Money 

Money can be a major source of stress for working women in the US. Finding cost-effective ways to provide for your household can be a challenging task. Coupon clipping and bargain hunting can help cut costs on items your family needs, as well as any luxury items that fit in your budget. Creating a spreadsheet that projects monthly expenses like food, clothing, prescriptions and home and car payments can give you a better sense of control. Try to set aside an emergency budget for unforeseen expenses; if you’re suddenly faced with a financial crisis, such as job loss or a major medical bill, it’s important to tackle the problem straight on, rather than allowing debt to accumulate. Taking out a loan, credit cards and payment plans may be necessary to get you through difficult times. Using a low interest credit card to do your family’s grocery shopping can help carry you over until your next paycheck, and many cards offer reward points, which you can put towards other purchases.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Self-care can mean different things to different women; it’s not always a bubble bath and a face mask. Sometimes simply saying no when you feel like you cannot take on any more responsibilities is an act of self-care. Self-care can mean taking a break to  journal, meditate, focus on your art or chat with a friend. The goal is to check in with and nurture yourself, rather than exhausting all your energy on those around you.

Seek Professional Help if You Need It 

When you’re juggling a number of responsibilities, it’s inevitable to experience some amount of stress. Persistent, unmitigated stress, however, can lead to burnout, anxiety, depression and other mental and physical health problems. Transitions at work and at home can contribute to and exacerbate stress. Furthermore, the unique social challenges women face in society, such as increased rates of sexual harassment and income inequality may also account for the pervasiveness of depression in women ,  If you’re experiencing long periods of feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and disengaged, talking to a mental health professional or finding a support group in your community can be beneficial. A licensed therapist or psychiatrist can recommend an appropriate treatment plan and help you start feeling better.

Balancing a career, family and whatever passions drive you in life can be a challenge, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. Taking breaks and reaching out for support is part of being an empowered woman. By prioritizing your wellbeing and developing efficient coping strategies, you can enjoy a more fulfilling life both at home and in your career.