The struggle for working moms to find a work-life balance is real. There has been a lot of chatter recently about the mental load of motherhood, but not much is spoken of how exactly on a practical level we are expected to balance the needs of ourselves and our families with those of our businesses. Turns out I’m pretty awful at balancing all of these things so when CONTRACT offered to help me figure things out I jumped at the chance. 

CONTRACT specialize in human resource and organizational development. They work with leaders and their teams to help them be their best both in and outside the workplace. They offer executive and business coaching to help people understand themselves better to gain insight into their life and work. They provide a framework for making sense of team conflict in an effort to decrease behind-the-scenes organizational politics and improve communication, productivity and performance. The focus may be company-oriented but the process is personal.

You can read more about why I needed CONTRACT here.

Judith and I decided on three sessions together. Sessions are between 1 and 2 hours long, and you usually have between 3 and 6 sessions, but it totally depends on the situation. For me, I really needed a sounding board and someone to point me in the right direction, so 3 sessions were the perfect amount to really dig deep and make some concrete changes.

During the first session with Judith, I couldn’t help feeling that it was a bit of a therapy session. It isn’t therapy but I found it liberating to talk so freely and openly about my work-life balance, without feeling judged. Of course the problem with me is that I was feeling totally unbalanced, and that made me feel both ineffective and guilty. I think I felt like it was therapy because I was being given the space to say whatever I wanted to say, but Judith was there to guide me to think about what I was communicating ie my words but also my thoughts and feelings behind those words. Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to us to help us find our own solutions to our problems.

As a mom, we’re expected to love our lives and all the time we spend with our kids, but as a working mom I wanted to dedicate time to my work. Because everything was a bit of a mess and the different aspects of my life were all blending into one, I felt guilty for wanting to work more and for resenting the time I was spending with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids to bits and my family are everything to me, but with 2 kids under 2, most days were days of survival so any time away from the kids was a relief, even if I was working. (I can’t even write that without feeling like a failure as a mom!)

Lady drinking champagne

I felt a bit of a fraud in the first session, because I’m not an organization and I felt like my problems were a bit petty, but Judith immediately put me at ease. She’s a mom herself and seemed to totally relate to what I was going through. Even better, she never made me feel like I was being ridiculous in any way (which is exactly how I felt).

As a facilitator, Judith was superb in navigating what I was saying and reflecting it back to me so that I was able to consider things in a new light. Even though it’s not therapy, it was a similarly open, non-judgmental environment which clearly I hadn’t had before. 

In the first session, Judith helped me define exactly what my issues were. I was clearly having problems having a good work-life balance but it turned out there was more to it than that. I hadn’t want to admit it to myself but I was actually considering stopping working. The guilt was getting to me big time, and I was wondering if I should throw in the towel to concentrate on what was really important – my family. But at the back of my mind was the knowledge that my work is an important part of me, so much so that I’m not willing to give it up. As a freelancer too, if I give up my clients for a few years, there’s no telling if I’ll get them back when I’m ready to work again.

I had already tried a number of techniques to try and balance my life a bit more, but they clearly hadn’t worked. I like structure, so I had designated certain days to accomplish certain tasks, all in a pretty little schedule. Obviously that didn’t work. First of all because I’m a creative and I can’t predict when I am able to write and when I‘m going to rather Facebook or watch Love Island. Second of all because I have kids and they have tendency to get sick or need something urgently from the shop just when I need to get some work done.

I had also given up a retainer client to give myself some more leeway but then, because the universe works in funny ways, I found myself with a few, much more exciting and lucrative clients which I couldn’t/didn’t want to say no to.

desk with flowers, notebooks and lamp

So the first session was more of an unloading session. Judith helped me unpack my situation and take a step back from my issues. As I said, it wasn’t a therapy session but it was super helpful to me to communicate my thoughts and feelings freely, just to clarify everything in my head.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a wrap-up of my sessions…

If you’d like to contact CONTRACT for more information on their sessions, please check out their website.

Disclaimer: these sessions were sponsored by CONTRACT but the (issues and) opinions are all my own.

Photos: Sofi Dadourian

the Bird and the Beard logo