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Is there anything more stressful and anxiety-inducing than missing a key work meeting because you’re rushing home to tend to family? Or the reverse, missing your family’s important moments because work ran late that night? Plus, there is the guilt that when left unchecked can stay with us for years.
This has been the plight of modern working women for a while now, but it seems to have intensified in recent years. As an executive coach, I’ve observed a spike in conversations about work/life balance—or what I prefer to call work/life harmony. My clients ask for support managing the mounting pressures of fast-paced work environments, the long hours, and the expectation of unwavering dedication.
For Latinas in particular, there is an additional pressure to excel in their careers—often as the first in their family to achieve a college education—while also being devoted to and prioritizing la familia. They often feel like they are falling short on both fronts and treat necessities like personal time as an elusive luxury.
In my experience, however, it is possible to find a path that allows us to lean into our careers, while also embracing the beauty of letting go when needed without compromising our identity or well-being. It takes work, but there are a few tools that anyone can use to build a more balanced life.
The first step is to recognize that work/life harmony means something different to everyone. My ideal scenario may not be the right fit for you. Identify and acknowledge your genuine needs: what is non-negotiable, what are you willing to sacrifice (while remaining at peace), and what are you comfortable releasing?
For some, clocking out at 6:00 p.m. to tend to family or personal matters might be non-negotiable, while for others, it may be acceptable to get back online in the evening to finish work tasks. Having a morning workout routine to start the day fresh might be non-negotiable for some, while for others, starting work early on certain days to handle important tasks might be acceptable.
It is our prerogative to define what work/life harmony means to us. We must be content with our choices, lean on what matters most, and let go of external pressures and expectations.
There are two significant obstacles to achieving work/life harmony: our perceived inability to say “no” and our tendency to put others’ needs before our own.
For instance, we often feel obligated to stay late at the office, work weekends, to be available via email 24/7, or to take on extra tasks and projects even when our plate is already full in an attempt to demonstrate competence and dedication. In these cases, it helps to reflect on the true necessity of those actions and to establish clear priorities aligned with your values. To do this, ask yourself what is important to you and use that to help you set boundaries.
For me, appreciating the significance of my personal and family time and recognizing its equal importance has empowered me to confidently say “no” and grant myself permission to let go. By setting clear boundaries, you too can reclaim control over your life and find the harmony you seek.
Latino culture emphasizes the power of community, and this applies to both our personal and professional lives. Building a supportive network of family, friends, and colleagues that can offer invaluable guidance and support and understand your journey is crucial.
I will always be grateful to a former executive who played a pivotal role early in my career. Her mentorship and firsthand insights empowered me to navigate the complex landscape of office politics. Thanks to her guidance, I developed the confidence to ask for extended maternity leave when my children were born and additional paid time off when they were young, allowing me to excel in my executive role while also tending to my family.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) or affinity groups can be another invaluable support system. By surrounding yourself with professionals who have shared experiences, you can exchange best practices and find comfort and encouragement in times of need.
The inverse is also true. Be discerning of who you let into your life, and learn to let go of people who hold different standards or values than yours and who may keep you stuck in a dissatisfied work/life harmony.
Practice Guilt-Free Self-Care
Latinas often feel guilty when prioritizing their own well-being. However, self-care is not selfish; it is a necessity. Taking time to recharge and nourish our bodies and minds allows us to be at our best at home and at work.
Carve out time (even if it’s not very long) for activities that nurture yourself. Take small breaks throughout the day like ten-minute walk before work, a five-minute mindfulness meditation before lunch, or a fifteen-minute reading session around 4:30 p.m. before you tackle your last batch of emails for the day. Or you can take one day off at the end of each month just for you. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, it’s anything that nurtures our mind, body, and soul.
It’s also essential to grant ourselves grace and forgiveness when things don’t go as planned. Life is unpredictable, and despite our best efforts to be in control, perfection is not always attainable. Embracing flexibility and showing ourselves the same compassion we extend to others is crucial. Drawing strength from your community and being unapologetically authentic in this balancing act is key.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Many of us strive to strike that delicate harmony, so let’s lean in, learn to let go of guilt, and carve a new way of showing up for ourselves so future generations witness they can do the same.
Ilhiana Rojas is an Executive & Leadership Transformation Strategy Coach, a DEI Consultant, a Hispanic advocate, a Bestselling Author, and an international motivational speaker.