Looking for work-life balance tips to help you retain your sanity? Read this work-life balance article if you’re a working mom in India and balancing career and family is a tight-rope walk.
The life of working moms in India (or anywhere in the world) tends to be harried. Regardless of whether she resides in a major metropolis or in rural India, being a working mother is no cakewalk and work-life balance for women is as elusive as ever.
Financial pressures and ancient Indian traditions ensure that working women in India find it hard to strike a healthy work-life balance. Indian women remain under the heavy yoke of pressure, as these figures of the Women Labor Force Participation Rate reveal.
India’s female Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) or the number of women who are working or freelancing or doing part-time jobs, fell to 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005.
The world average is about 49% of female participation in the labour force, meaning India lags miserably. This means that three out of four women are not employed. Nor are they in the job market.
There are several reasons for low LFPR among women. One among them is a tradition that post-marriage, Indian women should function only as homemakers. Second, women are reluctant to take jobs due to high-stress levels, primarily because of work-life balance problems.
Being a career woman in India is hard work, especially, if you’re married and have kids. Women are the ones who are burdened with the challenges of work-life balance in India, plus a lot of extra baggage that a working woman has to carry, unlike her male counterparts.
Nikita, a 35-year-old mother of two, says:
The kids now go to school and my husband stays away on business; I regret having to give up my career altogether to maintain domestic harmony and now it seems like quite a challenge to catch up from where I left.
Task management is an essential skill to be mastered if one has to learn how to balance work and family. Most career women struggle with juggling the kids, husband, and domestic chores while simultaneously managing office work.
Despite their multitasking abilities, career women in India are often criticized for being below-average homemakers and not “being there” for their children.
In India, an ideal woman is the one who devotes most of her time to managing household chores, taking care of her family and grooming her children.
Though society is seeing an enormous improvement in the status of women in India, the traditional concept of a woman as a housewife stays stuck in the minds of people, including modern Indian women. For a majority of them, having a baby is very important.
It is then that she feels the need to choose between career or family and invariably her career takes a backseat. When she tries to be a mom and a professional at the same time, sacrifice, compromise, working-mom guilt, and the elusive work-life balance all come into play.
But does it have to be career vs family and do women really need to give up their careers for their family life? Balancing a career and family is not easy, but not impossible either.
Women’s struggles to balance family and work have been much discussed in the media, but most mums at work have never been taught how to balance work and family life since they didn’t have any role models to show them how.
Learning how to manage home and work without having to choose one over the other is something each of us has to work towards, and there are no quick solutions.
Women must realize that irrespective of gender and marital status, they are entitled to pursue their dreams and be financially independent. At the end of the day, most working moms find themselves left with no time for their own self-care.
So how do you balance both your family and your job? Or learn how to manage work and baby? How do you manage your stress and work-life balance? Working moms can follow the steps below to maintain a work-life balance.
Some of these may seem difficult. However, with some effort and commitment, you’ll be able to define your priorities, restructure your schedules and get the help you need to reduce your stress levels.
5 Work-Life Balance Tips For Working Moms In India
If balancing your career and family is becoming a tight-rope walk, these work-life balance tips may just help you retain your sanity.
1. Avoid long commutes
India is notorious for its long commutes. On average, a daily commute between home and the workplace takes about two hours daily. This is due to the non-availability of adequate transport facilities in rural India and traffic jams in megacities.
Public transport systems such as suburban trains and shuttles are overcrowded. In cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, women spend as many as four hours daily commuting between home and the workplace.
Studies in the US and elsewhere in the world clearly prove that long commutes lead to stressful lives. We find no pleasure stuck behind the wheel at traffic snarls or standing in trains and buses.
This sheer waste of time and stress are the main reasons for disrupting any efforts to strike a work-life balance. Imagine a working mom who arrives home after a four-hour, two-way commute and eight hours of work.
Most moms who wish to work could find jobs nearer home. This dispenses with the need for long commutes and eliminates quite a large degree of stress, and the expense that goes with it.
2. Consider work from home or freelance jobs
Remote work is one of the best work-life balance jobs for moms with babies, and thanks to the Internet, there’re several jobs that can be easily done from home. If possible, ask your employer for remote work or work-from-home positions or consider freelancing.
Many Indian employers are beginning to consider hiring for remote or work-from-home jobs, because of the high cost of real estate, as well as the many studies proving the benefits of working from home for both employers and employees.
A 2-year Stanford study showed that work-from-home employees are more productive, because they work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week, and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.
An article in the Harvard Business Review noted that working from anywhere has become more commonplace. So, any Indian woman with skills can become part of this gig economy and earn equally well, if not more, by working from home with flexible hours.
Research worldwide proves that freelancers and telecommuters – meaning work-from-home employees – have less stressful lives and earn more money than those who work full-time jobs.
India has the second-highest number of white-collar freelance workers in the world, with over 18 million freelancers, many of whom earn very high salaries, with some claiming income in excess of INR 2 million per year.
As a working mom, you can consider this option too. Studies conducted by Dr Bailey Bosch show that these 3 character traits can tell if working from home, or working remotely, works for you:
- Emotional regulation
3. Consider a career change
Any working mom would admit that some careers are inherently stressful. That is, stress and pressure are an inherent part of the job. If that’s the case with you as a working mom, you might want to consider a career change.
You could consider joining companies with the best work-life balance policy, or reskill yourself for a profession that’s less stressful and will assure you of equal or more income. Consider doing an online course in new technologies such as digital marketing, machine learning or artificial intelligence.
All of these are high-demand professions that also offer the possibility of working from home and freelancing. They also allow you to become a full-time entrepreneur with a home-based coaching or consulting business.
Understandably, giving up a cherished career you’ve invested in over a period of years isn’t going to be easy. But consider what you have to gain – work-life balance and job satisfaction.
At the end of the day, you’ll be a happier working mom and have adequate time for work and family. You’ll also be able to take care of your household while securing financial independence.
4. Manage family expectations
The biggest challenge many of us face is how to balance the expectations of our family and friends with our careers. While we want happy and fulfilling lives outside work, we often have to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve our career goals.
The most important thing for women committed to their careers is to garner support from their families as families play a huge role in an individual’s decision-making in countries like India.
If you’re finding it hard to balance work and family, talk with your family and manage their expectations. With a bit of convincing, family members can get used to your work routine and begin extending their support, even if grudgingly.
Most of the time, however, a little help from your spouse is all that’s required to make a difference in balancing work and family. Teach your family to share responsibilities.
You can ask your husband to help you with the cleaning or the dishes or your kids to assist you in packing their lunches. Take an overview of the things you do throughout the day and mark out the most essential ones that take top priority.
You will find many activities you do apart from these (both at work and at home), that take up your precious minutes of sleep. At work, try to delegate smaller tasks to your juniors if hurrying around after every little job is keeping you at the workplace longer than necessary.
At home, divide some of the chores that get done much faster if each member does a bit. In cases where domestic help is not available, each person can clean his/her own dishes.
Likewise, each family member can fold their own clothes from the laundry basket; even kids above a certain age may participate and actually benefit from such early introduction of basic self-dependence. Your husband and you can take turns to attend to the studies and homework of children.
You can even do their revisions with them while you cook. Getting pre-washed and cut vegetables and doing meal prepping in advance is yet another timesaver, which you can further improve by finding quick recipes.
Encourage your children to follow a routine, especially during weekdays. If they are done with homework, feeding and other tasks by a reasonable hour, you can safely retire to your room and unwind.
While we try to share our responsibilities with others, it’s also important for us to learn to let go of working mom guilt and the urge to control or criticize our families if they do things in a different way.
Working mothers need to realise that it is sometimes all right to let others pitch in with a few small things which would save a lot of time and energy. For example, if a close friend or relative is going to the supermarket, you can request them to bring in some groceries for you as well while you grab some quick shuteye.
You can do the same for them on your next trip to the store. Doting grandparents will be happy to have children over for the weekend, which would leave you with plenty of time to relax and catch up on sleep.
Even in the absence of familial support, women can set their priorities straight and use their financial independence to hire domestic help to take care of the home. That will also allow for more quality time with children and elders. After all, as someone put it wisely, “It is the quality of time that matters, and not the ‘quantity’.”
It is not necessary for women to sacrifice their careers for their family life, although many women still find it a convenient and confrontation-free option. By managing tasks intelligently and prioritizing well, achieving a work-life balance becomes possible.
You need to know what is important to you at any point in time. Achievement and enjoyment go hand-in-hand. And sometimes, balancing becomes more of ‘compromise’ and ‘sacrifice’.
Learn to develop a mental boundary between home and work. Obsessing over things that happened at work while we’re at home just leads to more stress. When at home, be present and switch off from work.
The times when only the husband earned and the woman stayed at home have changed. Today, there are women who are choosing careers over family and husbands who choose to stay at home and manage the house.
5. Know your priorities
Be more organized at work. You can use pocket planners, set up reminders and plan things in advance to allow yourself more personal time. This will help you function more efficiently and meet deadlines quicker, leaving you additional time with your family.
You might want to avoid parties on weekdays because they invariably go on till late and result in sleep deprivation, low energy and lack of focus. If you drink alcohol at a party, it can leave you with a hangover and dehydration the next morning.
Late-night TV watching and eating out is best left for the weekends as these activities interfere with sound sleep. If you have a small baby who needs to be attended to at night you can get your husband to take turns or split responsibilities.
Planning activities like an outdoor picnic with the family strengthens bonding. Families can plan and get involved in outings, hobby activities or anything they enjoy together.
Many families make it a point to go on vacations or long weekends at least once a year. When you’re holidaying, it is also important that you disconnect from work as much as possible.
Lost amidst the chaos of juggling work and home, women often forget or just do not bother to take care of themselves. Make sure you set aside some quality time for quality self-care, and pay attention to your health.
Sure there are a million things to be done but some of them can certainly wait. Don’t take it upon yourself to accomplish everything in a single day and be ruthless enough to say “No” and reject things that are not essential.
There’s no single solution to balancing work and home, but the ability to prioritize will help you find a better work-home balance. Ask yourself, “What are the decisions and compromises I need to make today in order to achieve my goals tomorrow?” and you’ll be able to prioritize better.
Sometimes you just can’t have those relatives over; the visit can happen later. This also applies to work. Draw a line and say no to over-commitment and additional workload. Promise to end your day at a particular hour and save the non-urgent tasks for weekends or holidays.
The Hazards of Ignoring Work-Life Balance
Now that we’ve seen how working moms can find work-life balance, let’s learn a little about why there’s a need for work-life balance.
For starters, stress and burnout are the precursors to physical ailments including abnormal blood pressure, diabetes and cardiac ailments. Failing to strike a proper work-life balance can also have severe repercussions on mental health.
Stress in itself is an all-around killer. A working mom can easily fall prey to substance abuse and take to drugs, alcohol or prescription medicines such as anti-depressants and tranquillizers for that emotional escape.
After a stressful day, it helps to come back to a room that is welcoming and soothing to the senses. Use dim lighting and aromatherapy lamps to create an ambience that will help you forget the day’s worries and lull you to sleep.
Some essential oils like Lavender are believed to induce sleep, even in insomniacs. Failing to strike a work-life balance can also lead to a lack of self-care or neglecting children, resulting in them faring poorly at school and not learning important life skills.
Also on the domestic front, working moms can find themselves fighting the odds to keep the family together. Often, an imbalance in life can lead to divorce or separation as either of the spouses feels neglected.
Indian women are looking for financial independence and rightly so. At the same time, they have the added responsibility of raising children and other household duties.
It isn’t easy for working women in India, even more so for single working mothers. But, rather than giving up work altogether in favour of the family, learning how to balance work and life can work wonders for your life.
I hope these work-life balance tips will help you find a good work-life balance in your own life. If you have any work-life balance questions do share them in the comment below.
Natasha Shetty is a passionate blogger whose career revolves around writing, which she fondly calls “the art of words”. Writing about Career and HR are her favourite topics.