THE BLOG
06/20/2014 10:34 am ET | Updated Aug 20, 2014

Lessons Learned on Work-Life Balance

Takamitsu GALALA Kato via Getty Images

There are seasons in a person's life when you may have a family crisis and a real work-life balance situation is required. If you have a good boss that understands the importance of family and having work-life balance, then just remember you do not need to over compensate for the flexibility. I make this statement out of my own personal experience.

Last year, my mother was dying of cancer; she had been given three to six months left to live. I had a terrific boss that allowed me to work from home to care for her as we knew her time was short. He reduced my workload and was very supportive. I worked online from home, and when necessary, I would pay a gal to come in and care for her if I needed to leave the house for a few hours to go into the office. I did not have the funds to have her come every day, so I could only use her when it was really necessary.

As my mother's condition began to deteriorate she was up a lot during the night. At times, I would be up all night; this made it difficult for me as I was exhausted during the day. Yet I still felt that I needed to be there for work and be available online and get my work done. A lot of the time, I was busy working on the computer. The breaks I took were used to prepare her meals or help her to the restroom rather than taking some extra time to just sit down and spend time with her. I felt I needed to keep working as I wanted to show work that I appreciated their flexibility and was not going to take advantage of their kindness.

The work arrangement helped me to manage the first two months; however, by the third month, I had a big all hands meeting coming up that would require more face time in the office. I coordinated this type of meeting for our executive; it was a big production with guest speakers, Telepresence equipment and a TV broadcast crew. We had people attending in person and from various locations around the world. I did not want anything to go wrong and I started to put pressure on myself to make sure I did not drop the ball on anything. I knew I could not handle the all hands meeting and care for my mom at the same time.

Mind you, my boss did not put the pressure on me; however, I am very meticulous about my work and I did not want anything to go wrong... I was not sure I could trust someone else to cover it for me. I was sabotaging my own work-life balance situation. I made the decision to put my mom in a convalescent hospital. I did not want to do it, but I did not feel like I had a choice; maybe it was the fatigue that pushed me to do it. The problem is, I did have a choice. I could have passed that work on to someone else; I could have trusted another coworker to be there in person for me. My manager did not put pressure on me, and I needed to realize that at that particular season in my life family was more important than a meeting that happens once a quarter.

My mom passed away 10 days after I put her in the facility as her condition deteriorated rather quickly. I regret putting work first over family. If I could do it all over again I would have kept her at home and delegated the work for someone else to handle. My mom could have died at home instead of in a hospital with strangers.

My advice to you: If you ever find yourself in a similar situation where a family member really needs you is put family first. If your boss will grant you the flexibility for a better work-life balance situation in your life, do not feel like you need to over compensate for your boss' generosity. You can just receive their understanding and kindness. Yes, there are some nice people in this world.

Remember to not let work or yourself get in the way when there is a time when a loved one really needs you. Women tend to think they can do it all, but that is not always the case in every situation in your life. It is OK to put work on the back burner during difficult seasons in your life because work will always be there. If your manager is not supportive in providing work-life balance then you should ask yourself the question if it is the type of place you want to work at. Look at the priorities in your life and determine if it supports those priorities or hinders them. You know, the saying, "There are plenty more fish in the sea," can also apply to your job, you can always find a job somewhere else. A job is easy to replace but your family is not.