Some years ago, I faced criticism from those close to me when I chose to spend a few years being a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). My children were young, and I wanted to prioritize time with them without worrying too much about other life demands. It was surprising to my peers that an educated woman with a burgeoning career would eschew all that in favor of staying at home and taking care of her children.
In my culture, there is a saying, "the woman is the heart of the home." How people interpret that is different. Traditionally, the woman's role was that of primary caregiver for the home, staying home and taking care of the children. However, over time, more women have evolved from the conventional views and are slowly gaining occupational equity, which is why my decision seemed irrational to some.
With these ever-evolving cultural and societal views, I often find myself wrestling with what is expected of me versus what I think is best of me as an individual with multiple roles. I have always wanted the best of both worlds. I have goals and dreams that I want to actively work towards, but I also do not want to miss out on my time with family and opportunities to engage in other activities that I enjoy and take care of my health.
Many years later, here I am, pursuing further education and doing my best to meet the other important demands in my life faithfully. There are occasional feelings of guilt, such as when I feel too tired at the end of the day to play with my kids or when I work through fatigue and end up spending too much time on tasks because I did not give my brain a break. I have had many conversations related to achieving work-life balance, sought resources, but I want to share three main reminders that I live by:
It is entirely up to you to manage and respect your values, needs, and ambition. You are the one that should set the boundaries, speak up when the environment doesn't support your goals, and surround yourself with the support you need.
You don't have to prove anything to anyone, and you don't have to live up to the expectations of any culture or society. These standards are constantly changing, and so are you, so there is no point in putting that pressure on yourself.
Last but not least, your mental health needs management too. With all the demands of life, anxiety, self-doubt, fear, guilt, and other negative feelings are bound to creep in. Do whatever you need to do to take care of those feelings; whether you need to find a good therapist, exercise, spend time with those you love, meditate… whatever it takes.
No matter what you are prioritizing today, whether health, happiness, productivity, some combination of these, or some other goal, remember to be gracious to yourself. I hope you can find ways to enjoy whatever path you choose to embark on in the various seasons of life.