Balancing the personal and professional sides of life can be like walking a tightrope for many professionals. Success appears to be mixed according to some surveys. In an environment where half those surveyed said that work-life imbalance means lost time with family and friends and 40% experience workplace burnout, the ability to achieve that sought-for and fulfilling balance may be hard to come by.
It can be especially challenging for women. Over half of U.S. workers today are women, compared to just under one-third in 1948. Over the past 50 years, the percent of households with children under 18 where mothers are the primary or sole breadwinners has increased from 11% to 40%.
This increase has not been accompanied by decreases in time spent on personal activities. The most recent American Time Use Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor revealed that though women are averaging more hours in their workdays than men, the hours spent on household tasks and childcare are higher than they’ve been since the survey started in 2003.
We asked some of our top female professionals how they have managed their work-life balance. Their observations and experiences offer food for thought for all of us.
Pursuing excellence in the job can be a challenge to parents, especially single parents. Haydee Franco, Vice President - Sales, confirms the truth of this.
“I have a little boy,” she said, “and as a single parent it was very hard. But once I got established with clients, everything balanced out. I work from home in the morning before he wakes up and attend to any open items from my workday in the evenings when he is in bed. The main thing is that we get to spend lots of quality time together.”
Starting from scratch took a lot of Haydee’s energy. Until she established her client base it was hard to maintain the balance she needed to take care of herself and her son. Happily, between her excellent efforts and Ascentium’s family-friendly culture and support, Haydee said that “I can be part of my son's life by volunteering at his school, and I get to do much more with him because I've learned how to balance everything.”
Being clear on priorities is one of the tips shared by successful women to achieve balance. For Lara Hernandez, Vice President - Credit, this has meant making sure that her daughters always knew that they were her priority after the workday was done. “Being present and engaged when I am home until both my daughters went to bed was always really important,” she said. “Being able to bring a work laptop computer home gave me the flexibility to handle any needed cleanup workday once the kids were asleep. This helped me avoid being an unavailable parent always at a computer or distracted by the phone. It was important that my children knew they were my top priority when the workday was over.”
Some professionals may find that the juggling act gets easier simply because children grow up. This has been true for Cassandra Rentfrow, Vice President - Sales, who said, “My kids are adults and out of the house now, but there was a five-year period when things were pretty hectic, as having two high-schoolers who were both active in extracurricular sports kept me on the go. I spent a lot of late nights working at the computer after everyone had gone to sleep. Things have calmed down considerably now.”
Like Haydee, Cassandra notes that working at Ascentium has helped achieve balance. “The great thing about Ascentium and my job as an outside sales rep,” she said, “is that as long as I get my work done and deals are coming in, I can manage my day the best way for both my job and my family. You can’t put a price on that kind of freedom.”
Jessica Parfait, Vice President - Professional Development, has taken expert advice to heart. “There are three things that I’ve put into practice that have been critical for work-life balance,” she said. “The first is making sure my people are well-trained. With team members who know what they're doing, the amount of time and energy that I’ve needed to put into work has lessened. Second, I've been meditating for 20 years. I find that when I'm calm and not screaming, ‘Oh my God, the ship is sinking!’ the rest of my world tends to calm down. And third, I make sure I recharge myself by leaving the country when I go on vacation so that I can fully disconnect.”
Being in love with the job is high on the list of work-life balance tips. Being passionate about the workday makes a job satisfying and less stressful, and it contributes to pleasure at home by generating a sense of fulfillment. Jeannette Villegas, Assistant Vice President - Vendor Services, echoed this by saying, “I think it all starts from within. Loving what you do at work and at home makes it easy to enjoy and balance life. Sure, there are times when it may be hard to enjoy the day, but that is part of life. You can always start again tomorrow!”
Some professionals struggle with getting the personal-professional balance. This struggle could be generational, as career expectations, organizational cultures, and self-imposed pressures of high achievers have evolved over the years. Carol Dmytriw, Senior Vice President - Sales, admitted, “It took me 25 years to figure out how to do it. It hasn't always been easy.”
For Carol, and likely for many career women, there came a point in life when a change needed to be made. “If an issue or problem arose due to lack of balance,” she said, “I would ask myself, ‘Where are my priorities? What makes sense for me?’ And I would act according to the answer. It doesn't mean that I turn off the phone and computer every day at 6:00 PM, but it does mean that I make sure I carve out time for my family and my church.”
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