Balancing the responsibilities of work and family is not easy. Balance can seem downright impossible when working parents are pulled in a thousand directions and playing multiple roles. For working mothers, it’s often harder. While gender roles in the work place continue to fade in favor of skill and ability, when it comes to domestic duties, women still shoulder more household responsibilities. According to the 2008 U.S. Department of Labor, on an average day 83 percent of women spend time doing household activities, as opposed to only 66 percent of men, and 61 percent of caregivers are women1.

Lack of balance that may cause women to make sacrifices in their careers can have an adverse impact on their finances. Women earn less money over their careers, not only because they are often paid less for the same jobs, but because they do not spend as much time in the workforce.  Women work an average of 12 years less than men do over their lifetimes due to time taken for caregiving responsibilities2. This imbalance can hurt women’s present income and negatively impact their long-term retirement finances.

Below are some suggested ways working mothers can strike a balance between work and family  to help achieve a better lifestyle, while spending more time in the workforce.

Take advantage of employer programs that offer flexibility. As the number of two-income households in America has increased, so have flextime arrangements, such as telecommuting or working earlier or later shifts. Employers now recognize the value in flexible work arrangements. Flexibility leads to happier, more productive employees because it helps to ease the dual pressures of work and family. Flexible work arrangements allow parents to handle the family responsibilities that may arise during traditional work hours, while also remaining productive and meeting their work obligations. For women – and men – this may mean spending fewer hours away from work while also taking care of their families.

Budget your time. Just as you would create a budget for your household finances, create a budget for your time. You can lay it out daily or weekly. Tally the number of hours and then prioritize. When you create a budget for your finances, there are certain bills that must be paid immediately – mortgage, rent, utilities. The rest is for expenses that vary – groceries, gas, etc., savings and discretionary money for you to use to either pay more bills, save more money or have some fun. Time works the same way. You have certain obligations to which you devote more time: work, family, sleep, etc. You also have discretionary time to devote to personal interests, exercise, friends, hobbies or just alone time. Write down what you need to do and when. Give yourself time to do the things you want and stick to it.  Don’t let work take over the time you have set aside for your family or for yourself. Stick to your budget.

Ask for help and delegate responsibilities. You may not be able to find the time to do everything you want and need to do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish your goals. Ask for help and delegate. If you are in a position to do this at work, do it. If you have a team of people, ask your team members to take on additional responsibilities and delegate deliverables, instead of staying late or bringing work home to meet these obligations all by yourself. This will give your team members more opportunities and you more time. At home, hire someone to do the housecleaning or the yard work. If you are in a relationship, split caregiving duties with your spouse or partner. It doesn’t have to be 50/50, but the split should be one that helps both of you achieve the balance you are seeking. Don’t be afraid to take “the village approach” to child rearing. Reaching out to retired or stay-at-home family members and friends, can provide much needed support and assistance.

Set boundaries. It’s easy for boundaries to blur, especially when you are trying to do it all. At work, family obligations may distract you from the things you need to do at the office. At home, you may physically be present, but if you are checking e-mail while helping your kids with homework or while you are supposed to be watching them play soccer, you aren’t really there. Discuss expectations and responsibilities – with your boss, spouse and children. Your boss will better understand what you need for work-life effectiveness and balance, and your family will better understand your work obligations.

When the workweek is over, many working parents institute an email and voicemail blackout, creating time to be fully available for and attentive to their children and their spouse. Taking this time to refuel as a family will remind you of your priorities. If you keep work at work and home at home, you will be more present and more productive in both aspects of your life.

These are just a few suggestions. There are many other ways women can work toward achieving work-life balance. The first step is making the decision to do so.  With greater balance, you will be more focused and productive at work, which may help lead to advancement and greater pay, which in turn can help you achieve financial security for you and your family.

1.   U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “Caregiver Stress,” May 2008.

2.   Americans For Secure Retirement, “The Female Factor 2008.

This article is provided by Fatma Aldas.  Fatma Aldas offers securities [and investment advisory services if rep is an IAR] through AXA Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) at 1633 Broadway, 2nd floor, New York, NY  10019 and offers annuity and insurance products through an insurance brokerage affiliate, AXA Network, LLC and its subsidiaries.  For any questions or concerns please call me at 212-541-1924 or write to me at fatma.aldas@axa-advisors.com

GE – 51873 (10/09)