The quest for work-life balance

In various conversations with the young professionals and female professionals, there seems to be one common topic that almost always get to the center of the conversation: How do you balance your life as a mother and as a leader?

That got me thinking a little deeper since I was also curious on how I can share and sprinkle some ideas to this important question. After much musing, I thought of distilling it into 2 parts: Definition & Systems

DEFINITION – Work-life balance redefined

Firstly, I would reframe the question slightly differently as “how do we (as a family) integrate and prioritize our family life and career”?

There are a few important aspects why the reframing is important:

  1. We (my husband and I) see the importance of running our family as an enterprise, as a form of partnership. That way, it is not a one-person’s job, but rather, it is our collective responsibilities to keep the family dynamic in harmony and at optimum-level. Also, any decision on career is holistic since it is interdependent.
  2. We recognize the importance of integration to ensure our values remain consistent for both worlds and we understand how one affects the other.
  3. We see the act of prioritization as a way to manage conflicting demands, given the dynamic nature of both worlds.

SYSTEMS – How does everything fit as a whole

When we see running the family as an enterprise, just like running a business, naturally we see the need to set-up effective systems so that most aspects can run concurrently to meet certain objectives, with clear roles & responsibilities and feedback mechanism.

Before I lost you with all these technical terms, let me simplify the definition further:

  1. System is a way how we plan and organize different components to meet certain objectives.
  2. Examples of different systems that we implement in our house:
  • Housework: do we delegate some, who does the chores and when
  • Logistics: how do we set up the logistics for our kids and ourselves; if we have to travel overseas, how do we set up the support system (keyword here is support)
  • Learning: what are the principles about learning (i.e we learn because we are curious and we love learning, not because of the pressure); how does each member be empowered to learn at their own pace, with others’ support
  • Family cultures: We have an annual family plan to review our values and goals for the year (see Family Business Plans), quarterly reflections, weekly family meeting and daily bedtime routine
  • Family values: How do we model our 8 family values on a daily basis; how do we make decision based on sets of guiding principles

As in any system set-up, the starting point will require a little bit more thought and momentum. However, that early investment generally pays off later, once it is stabilized. Sometimes, we even get prompted to further simplify our life further, after many years of practice (simple examples can be simplifying my closet, or the kids’ reading material. Or, can be as big as simplifying our asset management and financial loans). I also have accepted the fact that I won’t play such an active role in the parents group, but will continue to support where I can – that made my life much simpler.

Yes, systems may sound boring (they are!), but they work. Once we get these to work without much thinking, that gives a lot more freedom for others.

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