COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ERIN ROOKER

Achieving work-life balance can be done

I’m a big “Today” show fan. It’s something about the morning ritual of a cup of coffee and the mix of news and entertainment, all brought by the likable, familiar cast that has powerful, successful women.

Watching it also means that I’ve managed to squeeze in a few minutes of “me” time (a rare occurrence) into my daily role as marketing superstar, wife, mom, cook, chauffer … and the list goes on.

With the hot topic the last couple of weeks being the show’s lead female anchor, Savannah Guthrie, returning to work from maternity leave, I got to thinking, “What is that magic formula to being a working mom? And how do other successful women juggle it all?”

I did some research and polling of women in Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) and in the real estate industry, and came to find out that every mom who works outside the home asks herself these same questions … and that I know some pretty amazing working moms. Here’s what we have to say:

Get organized

I might be on the extreme end of this spectrum, almost tipping the OCD meter (my husband can attest), but I learned from my “mom” panel that we all use organizational tricks to make it through the week.

Food: On Sunday, line up your menu and prep for at least a couple of quick dinners for the upcoming week.

Time: Make sure everyone in the family has a calendar that they can access and share, and review the calendar once a week. Work and personal events should all be in one calendar.

Schedule it: Here is one of my favorite mom tips: “We wake up 30 minutes earlier and snuggle on the couch with sippy cups of milk and coffee for mom. This gives us time to be together before going into work.”

Buy in bulk or on sale ahead of time: One mom said, “I always keep an extra box of diapers and wipes in my son's closet. I also shop online and use the extra 40 percent- off sale items or final sale clearance. I buy up all the seasonal gear for when my son will be able to fit in it next.”

Technology: With the smartphone, multitasking goes to a whole new level. I can keep my grocery list, Christmas-wants list and to-do’s all in one place. I can sync it to my husband’s phone. I can read emails while pumping gas and talk to my mom while sitting in traffic. Point is, make the most of those random five minutes of down times — they add up!

The point most moms made was to be prepared. Find a system that works for you (and your family) ... then act on it.

It takes a village

As noted in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1996 book, every parent, working or not, will agree that raising a child takes a whole team of support: a “village.” Behind every working mom is an all-star team of partners/spouses, family, friends and child care providers that she can rely on, and the more you can rely on that team, the happier your whole family will be.

The “It Takes a Village” question was answered by a resounding “Heck, ya!” from the entire panel. One mom said, “There is no doubt in my mind that my kids are being raised by a village. And I prefer it that way. It is important for me to surround my girls with all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds.”

Just say no

So easy in theory, but so hard to do sometimes. All my moms agreed this was necessary, but not always black and white.

Work-life balance: Try to be as upfront and realistic with your employer as possible. Most workplaces support a healthy balance of work and home life, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Choose your commitments carefully: If you know baking 100 cookies for tomorrow’s bake sale is impossible, don’t say yes. Or if you do, buy them! There’s no shame in taking the easier way out. If participating as a coach on your child’s soccer team is important to you, be the head coach (or better yet, co-coach). That way you get to dictate the schedule that best fits your week.

Learn to say no and learn to let go: One mom said, “I have learned to let go. This means that I am OK with the fact that the bed doesn’t always get made, dinner isn’t always planned out and the house isn’t always clean. I prioritize and go from there.”

Not everything you do has to come from Pinterest: Gourmet meals can be replaced by pizza and the homemade Halloween costume can be bought. No one is judging you.

Make priorities, but don’t forget about yourself. Not only is it a great energizer, but it also gives you a chance to miss your family and enjoy the moments with them even more.

The truth is there is no one magic formula, but a system of what works and what doesn’t. The most important thing to remember is work-life balance — whatever that balance is. It is an evolving balance, changing all the time. Acknowledging when life is unbalanced is a huge step toward fixing it.


Rooker is a marketing specialist with Turner Construction Company. She serves as a committee member and active participant of CREW San Diego, and she has a 2-year-old daughter.

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