Working moms and the never-ending chase for balance.

Balance. Everyone pretends it’s important, but no one knows exactly what it means. Some mysterious ratio between time spent at work and at home with kids? A lifestyle that incorporates leisure and work in just the right amount of volume that one doesn’t come across as lazy or uncommitted, but at the same time doesn’t feel over-worked and stressed? The ambiguity of just what balance really is has always left me feeling like my answer to this challenge is rather uninspiring...I’ve not found it yet.

Managing life with kids - meals and bedtime and school events and pickups and playdates - along with daily work demands of growing a software company, can make investing in and growing your career a lonely journey many times. Making the decision to forsake quality time at home with your kids to be at after-hours events where deals get done, key relationships are made, or investor conversations are had leaves me feeling defeated, isolated, and questioning if all the effort I put in will pay out in the end. I push and push and push, I crash hard, and I go back for more the next day.

If you can relate to this, the good news is you’re not alone. Fortunately, today, many women are managing the pressures and demands of working motherhood, and while the precious commodity of time is something you can never get back, pouring it into things that help you accomplish success in you’re own right, leaving you with a deep sense of purpose and meaning feels worth it to me.

As a mother and CEO, I struggle with the tradeoffs of making work a priority while also prioritizing my children. putting more time into the team that needs me in the office and giving the extra time to the little people at home who need me in life. It’s impossible to manage gracefully all the time, but what helps is a strong sense of purpose, a network of people who support you and know what you are trying to accomplish in the long-run, and a lot of discipline. As former Navy Seal Jocko Willink likes to say, “Discipline equals freedom”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Here are some things that work for me that hopefully can help you in your journey, as you look for some freedom or peace of mind.

  • Lean on others more. I’ve gotten better at this over the years, and I’m sure it was foolish pride and the immature notion of, “I should be able to do it all!” that I once had. Lean on others. Outsource where you can. And focus your quality time on the hard, important stuff.

  • I try to work from home 1-2 days/week if I’m not traveling, or at least work from home for an afternoon or two when I can. I’m more productive, can engage with the kids after school, can start dinner, and reduce the inefficiencies associated with drive time and getting ready in the morning. :) Note: I realize not all jobs allow this for some reason or another. At YouEarnedIt, technology enables us to stay very connected whether or not we are onsite or in-person. When I’m working from home, I’m still on video conference for all meetings throughout the day, and I stay connected by using Slack and the YouEarnedIt platform.

  • I wake up very early. Usually at 4:30 or 5:00 am. The energy is different in the morning, and the psychological boost of being awake and at it before the rest of the world is awesome. When everyone else sleeps, I can do yoga, get my wheels turning on important business topics, journal, or enjoy quiet time so the day is more productive. It’s amazing what you can get done with 2 extra hours each day. But this is not at the expense of getting good sleep, which is equally important. I’m normally lights out by 9:00 or 9:30pm every evening.

  • I try really, really hard to keep weekends for personal and family time. As the CEO, you can’t ever fully disconnect and certainly there are exceptions to the no work weekends I like to live by, but as a general practice, I reserve weekends for personal or family time. With or without the kids, every executive needs time to recharge.

  • The social life takes a hit, but it’s worth it to me. In all reality, you make choices in life that lead to the outcomes you want, and you need to decide if you are okay with it. For me, I’d choose my children or my company any day over happy hour or extra networking.

As I wrap up this piece, I want to remind all working mothers out there that the work you’re doing and the message you’re sending is one of power and purpose, and is changing the way our little ones look at the world. The guilt you place on yourself undermines the great work you are doing and detracts you from being successful, inside and outside of the home. When my daughter offers her frustrations that her mommy never picks her up from school, I use that as an opportunity to teach her why (after I swallow a big gulp of guilt might I add): I love my work, and I’m good at it, and luckily her mom gets to come home everyday and share stories of the impact being made at YouEarnedIt on the lives of other people. And I’m happy doing it.