If life were a game of ping-pong, the women of today would be the game masters. Many women bounce from point A to point Z and back again, all in the blink of an eye, while somehow landing back at home-base with just enough time to have supper on the table. How do women wear so many hats and manage to keep themselves together in the mad modern world we find ourselves in today? A few busy New Orleanians weighed-in on how they succeed in tilting the scales back towards baseline.
Dr. Angela Parise, staff OB/GYN at Ochsner Medical Center, has several key insights. After completing her residency at the State University of New York and landing in New Orleans in 2001, Angela felt both feet fixed firmly to the ground and was full-steam ahead in all aspects of her personal and professional life. Today, Angela splits time between her busy medical practice and her home life with husband, Steven Arthur, and their children: Taylor (10), Emma (12), Sophie (11) and Rocco (3).
On any given day, when not seeing patients around town or operating at the hospital, she can be found taking her kids to soccer practices, cheer activities, play rehearsals and early education programs. “My husband is our rock and foundation, because he keeps our family unified despite both of the crazy work schedules we tend to keep,” says Dr. Parise. “He is very flexible, which is helpful when he needs to catch some fly balls to help keep the juggling act going.”
Angela also lives for the simpler moments with her family, including walks around the block, movie nights with everyone in their pajamas and yearly trips to Disney World and Universal Studios.
Jill Holland, local New Orleanian, stay-at-home-mom, and Junior League member, also described the various hats she wears and just how she achieves day-to-day stability. “I am wife, mom, laundress, chauffeur, secretary, CEO, writer, sounding board, professional organizer, referee and volunteer. The ‘hat’ list is endless,” she says.
One key to tackling all of these responsibilities without burning the candle at both ends is compartmentalizing. Jill continues, “Making a list of what needs to get done in a week helps me decide what the hat wardrobe will look like for that week. I’m going to be a wife, mom, chauffeur and laundry lady EVERY day, but I might decide Tuesday and Thursday are days for organizing rooms, clothing and toys. Wednesdays are early pickup from school, so that’s a better day for being secretary or CEO for our household, and for double checking what appointments, bills, or house issues need attention.” Angela agreed, adding, “Set limits, and try to be coordinated and organized when possible — those are key.”
Trying to be an overachiever can backfire, despite the best intentions. Dr. Kendall Genre, a private practice psychiatrist in New Orleans, shared her experience on how some women cope with the societal pressures of being a woman warrior. “Women still seem to have higher expectations for their lives outside of work and therefore feel more pressure that leads us into the state of being overwhelmed.” This guilt over saying no or setting boundaries, regardless of their practicality, can often lead us to biting off more than we can chew.
Dr. Genre offers this advice. “There’s no one perfect balance, but it helps to acknowledge that there is fluidity. The scales are always adjusting, and we can be less anxious if we allow for change day to day in carrying out our many roles.”
Junior League member, Anna Dearmon Kornick, suggests creating a series of routines so life’s small stresses don’t become big messes. “I work from home, so sometimes the separation can be tough when there’s no real commute to create the transition from end of work to beginning of home time. Doing my best to stick to routines has made a huge difference.”
And when it comes to the all-important routine of self-care, Anna believes you should be your own boss. “Whether it’s blocking out some recurring time in your calendar for reading or yoga, or allowing yourself a frappucino every Tuesday afternoon, treat it like an appointment with yourself and don’t cancel.”
So what are some ways you can help minimize strife and maximize life?
- Take a break – You’ve earned your vacation time, but nearly half of Americans leave that coveted time-off on the table.
- Find your Zen – Whether it’s through meditation, yoga, Sudoku, reading, gardening, or even adult coloring books, make time to do that one thing that brings you pleasure.
- Fall off the grid – Too much time spent on social media can toxify your headspace with feelings of jealousy, resentment and FOMO.
- Call your squad – Setting aside time with just you and your friends gives you a safe space to open up about your feelings and commiserate with your comrades.
With jam packed-schedules that often include a last-minute Hail Mary, it’s easy to feel like there is little time left for you, yet it’s crucial to find that equilibrium. That might mean taking on less and being easier on yourself if you feel like you fall short on any particular day. “A colleague once told me it’s a juggling act,” says Angela. “At some point, some ball somewhere is going to fall.” And when that happens, at the risk of giving our readers an earworm, you have to find a way to just let it go.
So what’s the take-home message? Know your limits. Know when it’s time to pause and when it’s time to focus on yourself for a change (yes, be selfish!). Once me-time is achieved, cue up the Rocky theme song once more. But for now, pause and live well.