The Balancing Act

By Jen Burns (@jlburns)

When a fellow SHIFTer asked me to write a post for the Slice blog, I told her I would be delighted to get started. And when she explained she wanted me to write about the importance of striking a harmonious balance between work and home now that I’m a new mommy, I wanted to rip my hair out.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe this is an important topic, regardless of whether you’re married or single, have kids or a cat. Separating church and state, your personal life from your professional life, is something that all PR practitioners struggle to manage perfectly. It’s the nature of the client services business.

The real issue was I felt type-cast because I recently had a baby – I was branded a “mommy”. There was so much more to me, so much more I could contribute, than just a post about being a mommy and balancing this new experience with my career.

But then I started to really think – was there more to me than just being a mommy? Yes, I do like to read, I love going out to dinner with friends, I like long walks on the beach, yada, yada, yada. Honestly, as my sister loves to say, let’s keep it real – with a six-month old at home, there really isn’t much going on in my life right now that doesn’t revolve around my adorable bundle of joy. It was time for me to get over myself and face the fact that, yes, I was now officially in the mommy club. Accept it and move on.

So now that I’m a card-carrying member, what does that mean for me as a PR professional? What has changed, if anything? Personally, the biggest adjustment has been my working style. I am a procrastinator by nature, but it’s never been a problem because I think I work pretty efficiently and effectively when pressed for time.  My managers would probably agree I rarely miss a deadline and my professors would never know I wrote those 15-page term papers six hours before they were due with a bottle of red wine on my desk.

But now that I have a little one to get home to, I am constantly trying to stay well ahead of my to-do list. Of course, this is near impossible in PR, when projects and emergencies and last-minute results reports suddenly pop up. But I’m getting better, and I will admit it’s a lot less stressful to stay one step ahead when I can. I won’t make the leap and say my procrastinating days are behind me (blasphemy), but I think my time management skills have improved as a result of my mommy status.

The real key, however, to balancing your personal and professional life when you have a family is to surround yourself with understanding and supportive co-workers. You know you work with some good eggs when your manager tells you she’ll sit in on the 5 pm call so you can get home to your little one, even though you know it’s really your responsibility. Or when you have to leave work early because you think your baby is going deaf and you rush him to the doctor only to have him make a fool out of you in front of your pediatrician who is convinced you are an over-protective, overreacting, helicopter parent, and your other manager just laughs at you and says, “We’ve all been there, but don’t ever hesitate to do that again – his health is priority number one.” Or when you send a thousand photos of your kid to anyone who seems the least bit interested in your stories, only to have them beg you to send them more. Are these kind SHIFTers just humoring me in all my new mommy glory? Nah, not a chance – they just can’t resist this face:

5 Responses to “The Balancing Act”

  1. 1 Rebecca September 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Awesome post Jen! As a mother of three, I know all too well how hard it is to strike that harmonious balance. But as your manager, I also see how committed you are to bringing your A-game to SHIFT each and every day! Oh, and keep those pictures coming.

  2. 2 SHIFT Staff September 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, Jen! And yes – MORE PICTURES, please. He is a cutie :).

  3. 3 Catherine September 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Jen – Thanks for your post and for letting us Moms know we’re not alone in our quests for being A+ moms and PR pros. I wanted to pass along a quote from this book I’m reading right.

    “Our women saw ‘work-life balance’ for what it is – an unattainable goal. Instead they have adapted to a life of managed disequilibrium – a fluid and dynamic approach. They love their children AND they love their work. There was no either/or. Accepting the AND filled them with energy.”

    I read that quote a lot…and it gives me a bit of peace as I strive for my own Balancing Act. Good luck in your journey!

  4. 4 Maura September 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I second Rebecca – you continue to shine when it comes to delivering results for our clients. And keep the pictures coming – they provide a nice respite from our crazy work day!

  5. 5 Jennifer Burns September 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for the comments all – Cathy, that is a great quote and absolutely true. Having it all is pretty tough when you’re a working mom (or for anyone, really) but as long as I keep my head above water I know I’m doing OK.

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