More recently, multiple conversations with women who balance the diverse roles they play in their lives propelled me to muse over the process of the transition that takes place in fulfilling such key responsibilities. It is no easy feat without a shadow of doubt. It amazes me and makes me ponder over the variables which make one woman manage a transition and the diversity more easily than another. Thus the thought of writing this blog came into being – to cull out the various aspects which we as women need to focus on to create that desired balance and feel good about it as well.
Defining the Triggers
Let me narrate a few conversations which I have recently had that prompted me to consider this aspect more fully.
Ms. A is a working woman who struggles with determining what defines her. She is a successful homemaker and an excellent professional but fails to identify herself with these positive aspects. The more she and I interact the inherent uncertainty and self-doubt pounds down upon me. It becomes evident that in fulfilling one responsibility she feels another is neglected. In looking at one aspect of her life she fears the other will be lost. These dilemmas seem to have become more integrated into her personality rather than a sense of accomplished fulfilment which one would expect.
Ms. B and I discuss a lot of things, some personal and a lot professional. What interestingly stands out is the prominent presence of her work in determining and shaping her identity. One misstep at work can significantly shake her sense of confidence and assuredness in the way she views herself. Her home is perfect and she has incorporated the right support systems to help her manage things in a way that she can remain focussed on her work.
Ms. C considers the home alone to be an indicator of her success as an individual. She is a stay-at-home mom and busies herself with a lot else in the community she resides in, taking over a lot of novel initiatives in the realm of social responsibility. However, these additional activities do nothing to sustain or enhance her sense of being good-enough. One word from her family on how she missed a singular aspect is sufficient to ruin her day and her evaluation of herself.
The Challenge of Logistics
What stood out and has been increasingly highlighted through the work I do is the challenge that women frequently face in feeling happy about where they are at. And this concern arises not because they are not doing enough. Rather it tends to be a reflection of the dilemmas and the constant tug-of-war they experience as they attempt to negotiate the multiplicity of the roles they imbibe and execute on a daily basis.
It has been said often enough and there is no denying that regardless of how much the change in the society and the modernized perspectives that are trickling into the mind-sets of the young people, there is still an inherent need for and expectation from a woman to transcend the challenges of fulfilling multiple roles. Help is available and increasing number of individuals support the idea of having support systems. However, the ground reality is the difficulty in being able to create, manage and sustain these support systems. The infrastructural challenges which are largely evident through the deficit in care facilities for children and systems through which help can be procured add to the enhanced burden.
The Challenge of the Others
An interesting component is represented by the actual and perceived presence of others. This is not to say that I feel there may be women imagining that there are other people around them whereas in reality they do not in fact exist. What I am alluding to is the voices that surround a woman which constantly push her, whether these be of her family, her in-laws, her husband, her friends, her colleagues, and those of the media and media personalities as well.
A lot is communicated to a woman through these various sources. Not all that is said is negative or makes her feel at a loss regarding her own efficiency and effectiveness. Some also tend to be positive inputs. But the multiple things she hears can make her evaluate and re-evaluate all that she is and does. It can make her think of what others do or are doing and could make her question her way of doing things as well.
The Challenge Presented by Her Own Self
It is fairly interesting to note that a lot happens at the level of an individual within their own self. Over the years of growing up we all form our notions of how we want life to be, the things we want to achieve, the kind of family we would want and how we would integrate the various things we want with each other so that it represents a wholesome whole. We have our belief systems and our own values which contribute to our perception of how we think we are doing and where we are at and whether we are good enough or not. How these varying notions come into being is a complex amalgamation of our experiences, of what we have heard growing up, what our families and the society within which we reside have passed down to us.
As adults we attempt to steer away from what has always been done. We aspire towards creativity and doing things differently and as we move in this direction we begin to question a lot of which we have learnt and probably led our life by. This can create a potential conflict within the self at one level which is representing a conflict with the self.
There is a second kind of conflict which can also come into play. This second type comes about more on account of what we thought we would do and where we actually end up being. As the old adage goes man proposes and God disposes, there is a lot which we planned for and we may not necessarily end up being exactly where we had planned to be. We may also not necessarily be doing things in the way we thought we would be doing them.
All of this coupled with the expectations we start setting for our own selves, can create quite a complicated state of being for a woman, making her feel tense, unsure, and unhappy at times.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It is a question I believe we all ask ourselves frequently enough. “Ab kya?”. “What next?”. We have defined the problem. Now we need to find a path, because the result of all of this can be quite undesirable.
I believe that the path involves being first and foremost honest to one’s own self. Honest about what one exactly wants to do. I understand that life can push us to make choices we may not necessarily want. However, a good point to start at is a better understanding of where one would want to be and how one would want to shape one’s life given all things can be controlled. Having this kind of an understanding is critical in ensuring that one is able to take the right steps to feel good. Or if the situation is such that those steps cannot be taken then the sheer knowledge of what impediments exist can also make it easier to accommodate one’s current situation.
I do not believe that it is possible always to let go of some of the roles we need to engage with, at least not in their entirety. I wish it could be done. But the realist in me pushes me to acknowledge that it cannot happen. Tweaking is always a possibility. But tweaking can only be done when we have done our initial unbiased assessment. This tweaking involves as a large component of itself learning to balance.
Balancing Roles to Make a Smooth Transition
Typically when we talk of balancing we hypothesise a situation where everything is evenly poised. Today what I am attempting to propose is rather different. Let us take a closer look.
- Balance does not have to be evenly poised. Balance can be an individual determination which can be somewhat skewed as well. What I am attempting to say is that for one individual balance could be working in a ratio of 1:1 with her multiple roles. But for another it could be in a ratio of 1:1.5 or 1:3.
- There is no right or wrong. This is probably my most favourite statement. What works for one individual cannot work for another as each person comes with their own set of thoughts, beliefs, feelings and ways of doing things. That is the primary reason the concept of skewed balance works.
- Determine your priority and work towards it as the main focus of your life. If you know your priorities you will never go wrong. You will be able to make decisions and choose between options with ease and it would not make you question yourself or feel any amount of guilt or self-blame.
- Never look at how the other person is doing things unless you need some tips. The more you look towards another person and how they lead their life it can begin to create doubts. Different individuals will do things differently and it is ok for you to have your own conception of how to do things.
- Be a good problem solver. Being solution focused and not being problem focused is the key to success in life. Each time you will push yourself to look at how to fix something you will enhance your confidence in being able to take care of things. This goes a long way in helping you transition smoothly between your different roles as you know you have a solution in your armour.
- Where in doubt seek help. Help can be solicited from anyone at any time. There is no reason to stay stuck with a problem for an elongated period of time and feeling miserable about it. If you are unsure or unaware about something then discuss it. It would certainly be a help.
- Know that you cannot be at multiple places at the same time. It is not possible however much you may want to make it happen. Thus you will always have to pick and choose what to engage with and yes as a result you will have to let go of some things. But this is a part and parcel of life and one needs to adjust to it.
- In making your choices always keep your priorities in mind so that your thoughts and behaviours are closely aligned with each other and you do not feel like you are being torn in two different directions.
- Have realistic expectations from yourself. You can do only so much and that is a fact. Anything extra would need you to solicit the help of others and it would never make you a lesser person to seek their help
- Create strong support systems. If you play multiple roles then a key would be to create multiple support systems as well.
- Most importantly, trust yourself and your judgment.
It is not an easy argument that I have made here. My intention is to draw out a better and deeper understanding of a phenomenon which is all too common and is probably looked at too simplistically which I believe contributes to the significant challenge it posits since its intricacies have not been explicated enough. Balance is an essential to each of our lives and there is no escaping it regardless of what ratio you choose to balance your life in.