The reality of ‘having it all’, as we have come to know it, is utterly exhausting.

We pride ourselves in our capacity to do it all; raise a family, build a thriving career, maintain relationships and stay on top of it all.

The reality is that something always gets sacrificed. It is neither work nor the children but rather our energy that takes the brunt. In truth, for most of us ‘having it all’ is not a philosophical debate because the majority of women who choose to have a family, most certainly need to work at the same time.

We should be asking another type of question entirely; How can we possibly do it differently?

It is not necessarily the combination of work commitments and family responsibilities that depletes us. It may be lack of flexibility in our work environment, insufficient childcare options and a myriad of other issues. But mostly it is the self-imposed unrealistic standards that we set for ourselves, that get in the way of achieving peace of mind.

Most of us do a great job at work and are devoted mothers at the same time. What takes a real beating in doing it all is our own mental and physical wellbeing.

Here are five top tips to get on top of it all:

1) Forget about balance

The reason we feel so frustrated much of the time, is that the balance we are pursuing just doesn’t exist. So long as we are chasing an unattainable goal, there is no hope of getting close. What does work-life balance even mean? That work and life (outside of work) each have equal measure? There is almost always much more work, than family time or me-time. Most of life is filled with hard work.

The prudence is in being super-disciplined in establishing strong and effective lifestyle strategies and sufficient recovery time. Think more of a fluid dynamic equilibrium than static solid balance.

2) No awards for superhuman

Working hard is essential, however the need to persistently prove yourself and go beyond the call of duty is not.

These common characteristics of executive women are both unnecessary and the classic cause of much of the burnout and breakdown experienced.

When you leave work……leave work! Although it is much easier said than done, know when to stop.

Your time outside of the office should be spent on you and the people you care about. And don’t hesitate in asking for help!

3) Be bold, dig deep

“Put your hand up and be bold and be courageous. Be prepared to back yourself, be prepared to have a go”, encouraged Gail Kelly to women in Australia as one of her Seven Lessons for Life farewell speech when she retired as CEO of Westpac earlier this year. She continued by sharing “It’s been trouble for me all my life, the sense of; Gosh, I’m not good enough, I’m not adequate, I’m not going to do this well. I might fail, what happens if I fail?” As women our lack of self-belief and the constant ‘self speak’ of not being good enough is what may obstruct our path and exhaust us.

4) Recover intermittently

There is an antidote to fatigue and its impact on performance and competence. Not surprisingly, it’s rest! It’s not how long you take off that matters most, but how skillfully you use these very short periods of renewal.

Get up from your desk and stretch your muscles. Take a short walk. The simplest way to recharge energy is by breathing. Learning to practice mindfulness and meditation are very effective ways to defuse stress, strengthen neural connections, oxygenate the brain and enhance powerful brain neurotransmitters.

5) Recharge the battery

In ‘having it all’ neither work nor family is generally sacrificed, but rather your own needs.

Ensure you structure some time for yourself to defuse your stress and to recharge your energy such as a regular massage.

Although it often seems impossible, with discipline and planning you can ensure you keep well hydrated, exercise moderately and eat the most nourishing foodstuffs. Develop a healthy sleep strategy too.

For far too long, sleep has not received the attention it deserves. It is undoubtedly the most powerful restorative tool we have at our disposal.

By glibly repeating “You can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality. It is a falsehood to think it is simply a function of a woman’s determination. There are still trails to blaze, ceilings to break and gender inequities to correct. But if ‘having it all’ means a little more compromise and a little less perfection, a little more flexibility and a little less rigidity, a little more courage and a little less fear, then yes, it may indeed be possible.

Can you relate to this article? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
About the author: Dr. Linda Friedland is an authority on executive and corporate health, women’s wellbeing as well as stress management and performance. She is a medical doctor, bestselling author of five books, mother of five, and sought after international speaker. Linda is also a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD) and a health board non-executive director. For more information visit here.
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  • I never wanted to have an amazing job. I just wanted to be a good Mum. Thats what I told people when they would ask what i wanted to be when I grew up. I was lucky enough to have a husband that supported me being a stay at home Mum. I felt like I had all i needed.


  • We definitely need to recharge the batteries sometimes.


  • I think there is but you need to be willing to not do everything at the same time.


  • It can be difficult when you work shift work in what is basically emergency services. You can apply for a variation of shifts but you’e often not granted them. Or they change it but don’t advise you which is even worse. Nothing in email to you or your supervisor. Or you get told when you can have the time off but not what time you have to work in place of it becuase somebody has agreed with the Manager to swap shifts……and you don’t know who has swapped.


  • Great advice in this article important for balance in life.


  • i think that the key is to be observant! listen to your feelings and look at things realistically


  • Balance always changes and depends on what is going on – ensuring enough time for health and well being is important and helps with staying balanced and juggling all of the demands.


  • I don’t feel I can have it all, all at once! I’m not even sure what that really means. Mind you, I think I am lucky to work from home 3 days a week as a contractor to a fantastic friend. It’s a great gig, but that doesn’t mean I have it all. It’s about getting the balance right and I feel we mostly do that. But… it’s about being happy within yourself and your family. At the moment, I am.


  • Being a woman is a tough one to start with, and then our sense of perfectionism kicks in all the time that makes our life even harder.
    I’m at an age that sees ‘enough is enough’ and accept my inability to achieve the 100% score and be happy with what I have done.
    As long as I’m alive and well, I’m happy!!


  • Some great contemporary advice here. Just got to make sure in the heat of battle we don’t forget it.


  • I don’t think any one person can 100% have it all. There will always be someone leading us to believe we can and should have or do more. We can give it a red hot crack to make ourselves content with our lives, that’s all that matters


  • Like it


  • I agree that it is important to try and prioritise. Great advice. Thank you


  • I think it’s important to work out your priorities and apply your energy according to those priorities.

    • Absolutely and I totally agree with your sensible comments – prioritise for sure!


  • Thanks for sharing this is very helpful…I work full time and am a single mum to one…im so incrediably hard on myself as most mums are! I will be using this tips in future! :)

    • I am in the same situation. So often I’m tough on myself, and put myself through unnecessary guilt, and try to do much more than I possibly can. All of my family are interstate, which makes me a little isolated.


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