No one ever said spinning plates is easy. Working moms can attest that just when they get their 'family' plate spinning at a nice rhythm, the 'job' or 'personal time' plate smashes into smithereens right before their eyes.
And vice versa. It’s tough to write emails while imitating Elmo. That was the point that kept creeping into the conversation at the International Women in Digital Media Summit held in Stratford, Ont. this fall. How do successful businesswomen juggle work and family demands? Can women really do it all?
The answer depends on what you think 'having it all' looks like, and that will be different for every woman. Many Canadian families can't afford to live on one income, so figuring out a work-life balance is crucial for women who need to juggle a career, family, friends and -- always lastly -- themselves. Once it's determined, you’ll probably spend your entire career working on it, or at least until the kids move out.
Don’t know where to start? Here are four tips from businesswomen who are successfully keeping those plates spinning.
1. Tell Your Obnoxious Roommate to Shut Up
Your 'obnoxious roommate' is the voice inside your head that says you can't do something. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of AOL Huffington Post Media Group, said she's convinced her obnoxious roommate has said nastier things to her than her worst enemy ever has -- or will.
"The most challenging obstacles have been internal," said Huffington, who was a keynote speaker at the digital conference, of her business ventures, including the launch of The Huffington Post in 2005. "It's my own self judgment, my own self criticisms and fears about the future."
Her advice is to not view failure as the opposite of success. "Often it's the fear of failing that stops women from pursuing their dreams," she said, adding that if women (herself included) spent less time looking over their shoulders for approval and more time looking ahead at where they are trying to go, taking a risk wouldn't be so difficult. For more details, Arianna's spoken about five tips to overcome your fears in the past.
Takeaway Lesson: Don't shy away from your great personal or entrepreneurial ideas because of insecurities. Often the best way to conquer self-doubt and get started is to…
2. Set Boundaries
Working in a gamer's world can require long hours, but Jade Raymond, Managing Director and Studio Head at Ubisoft Toronto, has self-imposed limits so that she can spend as much time as possible with her two-year-old daughter.
Credited for being the producer behind the company's successful Assassin's Creed video game franchise, Raymond doesn't schedule any meetings past 5 p.m. and kicks herself out of the office by 6 p.m.
"I really want to make sure that I'm spending at least two hours at the end of the day with my daughter," she said, adding that her participation in dinner, bath and bedtime stories is just as important as her next big project at work.
She said she's also become more clever when booking trips, leaving after her daughter goes to sleep and arriving home before bedtime the following day, so it doesn't seem like Mom has been away for a long period of time.
Takeaway Lesson: Finding balance between your job and family can feel overwhelming unless you set firm limits. These will encourage you to be more effective during the day, so that you can leave it behind when it's time to go home. Remember, no one on their death bed ever said, 'I wish I put in more hours at the office.'
3. Think Outside the Box
While it's true that Canadian women are still trying to break through the glass ceiling in a bid to have more representation at the executive and CEO level, more women are getting there, and it's allowing them to try something new at home.
Lenora Hume, an award-winning TV and film executive who spent years working for Walt Disney, decided with her husband that he would be a stay-at-home dad when her career took off in 1990.
"Not everybody is in a financial position to do that but in our case it has worked brilliantly," she told the audience at the digital conference.
Together nearly 40 years, Hume said the decision was made when she found out she had to move the family from Canada to the United States. Just as their son was starting college, the family moved to the U.K. for another job Hume wanted.
"I don't think [my son] has any resentment from having a stay-at-home father and a mother that was really out there working and travelling," she said.
Takeaway Lesson: What's worked for you in the past may not be what works for you in the future. Be open to a new way of life at work and home on your path to achieving your goals.
4. Get More Sleep
Feel anxiety if your BlackBerry goes dead? You're not alone. Society has shifted into a place where people walk into each other because they're too busy talking, responding to emails and texting on their smartphones.
Some people even keep them on their bedside table because they're addicted to being constantly connected -- and it's this behaviour Arianna Huffington wants to change.
Ever since she fainted at work out of exhaustion a few years ago, suffering a broken cheekbone, she has been on a mission to preach the importance of a good night's sleep. Huffington argues that some of the best entrepreneurial ideas are lying dormant because the people who have them are sleep deprived. She believes that the key to a more inspired, joyful life is truly unplugging each night.
"We women are going to lead the way in this new revolution, this new feminist issue. We are literally going to sleep our way to the top," she joked during her December 2010 TEDtalk in Washington, D.C.
Takeaway Lesson: Only getting four hours of sleep each night is nothing to brag about. It's unhealthy, so get some more shuteye.
WATCH: Arianna's talk at TEDWomen from December, 2010: