As a working mother and business leader, I’m here to call BS on the idea of work-life balance. Add work-life integration to the list, too.  

I’m not saying that you can’t do it–many do so with some modicum of success. I’m saying that the game is rigged. Balance is a gendered issue that continues to persist within most workplaces as well as in most homes. 

Take hybrid workplaces as an example. An often cited argument claims hybrid work to be feminist. But how can it be, when it reinforces the age-old idea that women’s work is confined to the home? 

When we work from home, we continue to hear, families can better balance the competing demands that inflict both men and women at home and at work. Yet, the stats continue to show, even three years from the start of the pandemic, that women still outdo men in terms of labor in the home. 

It’s time we finally step away from trying to achieve work-life balance. Instead, we need to take an approach that will give us far more control over the situation: Setting boundaries.

Identify your non-negotiables

Before we can set a boundary, we first need to take a step back and consider what are our non-negotiables as a parent, a team leader, an employee, a human being (or any other role we spend time in). Creating this list is often hard for women to define, especially as we’ve been generally socialized to take on more and more with little grace to complain or off-ramp other tasks. 

To start, figure out what you want and need for yourself. For example: As a parent, I would never miss my child’s recital, school play, track meet, or fill in the blank. Another could be: I would never miss eating dinner with my family on Friday nights.

The aim is to find the tactical action you can take that will make you stronger, more present, more successful in each of your roles. Don’t be afraid to take up space. Gone are the days of quietly quitting when our needs aren't being met. Leaving without advocating for ourselves is a lesson-less tactic, carrying the passive approach to the next workplace where it’s likely we’ll run into similar roadblocks and issues.

Communicate your boundaries

Here’s a tip: Boundaries will only work if others know about them. Discussing these boundaries with our employers is absolutely vital, and there’s never been a better time to have these conversations. Companies are scrambling to keep employees happy and to make compromises to do it. 

In these times, leaders are more receptive to meet these demands and create new initiatives in order to better support employees they want to retain. So, renegotiate contracts, ask for what you want and create change–it’s far better than staying silent and sitting in your own frustration.   

Equally important is setting boundaries with others in our life–partners, support networks and perhaps, children, if they’re in the mix. This way everyone is informed of the limits you’ve set, while also helping you reinforce them. 

Reinforce your boundaries–again and again

Boundaries only stick if you stick to them. Like any diet, it’ll be tempting to pass the dessert tray without sampling a little something just this once. 

Consistency is critical and requires constant communication.I spend a lot of time helping executives prepare for all kinds of conversations related to boundaries, helping them achieve an equilibrium between their professional and personal lives that works for them. 

My one-to-one coaching method helps leaders develop the mindset and skills needed to engage in constructive, honest and effective conversations with team members, peers and beyond, ensuring there’s open conversation to resolve conflict. If you’re ready to become a more honest leader and respect everyone’s boundaries without compromising your own, book a consultation call today.