How to Balance Career and Domestic Lives: Some Lessons from my Mistakes

How to Balance Career and Domestic Lives: Some Lessons from my Mistakes

This article is for everybody – male and female; young and old; employed, yet-to-be-employed and unemployed (yes, I strongly believe there is a difference between the yet-to-be-employed and the unemployed). Please, don’t say that because it is the duty of the other gender to manage a family, this article doesn’t concern you. Directly or indirectly, we are affected.

I was actually pushed to share this piece after speaking with a man, who insisted that his wife should wait until their children are old enough to leave home before she can start a business (because obviously no one will want to employ her by that time). I’ve had sessions with women who want to wait till their children are older before they can find a job or something. Some of them have a change of mind after our sessions, some don’t. No matter what, I don’t think it’s a wise decision for a woman to sit down at home and leave her husband to be the sole provider in the family. I will come back to this after a little insight into my own mistakes.

I resigned from a job when I was pregnant with my first child. I couldn’t withstand the stress of combining my life as a wife, a mother-to-be and a career woman. It was just too much for me to bear. The school I was working with wasn’t making it any easier for me. I was too young and wrongly advised to think that the only way out was to leave my job.

Then I was just four months gone into my pregnancy. When I stayed at home for just two months I couldn’t bear the unproductive life any more. I went in search of another job, not minding my protruding bump. That was the time I truly acknowledged the discrimination women are facing. Nobody wanted to employ a pregnant woman. The ones that were kind enough asked me to come back after I have delivered and weaned my baby. There was one, I don’t want to mention the company’s name, that didn’t mind my condition because the panel saw that I was the best option among the candidates and decided to give me a chance. The director of the branch where I was supposed to collect my appointment letter took one look at me and seized the letter. Like joke like play, he withdrew the offer because he was the one I will work directly with. The decision of the panel didn’t matter to him. Anyway, that is story for another day.

Now, I decided to carry my pregnancy jejely and look for a job later, after all, as people kept reminding me, I have my husband as the breadwinner of the family. But you know what, he lost his job a few days to my son’s delivery. Having no other source of income, we faced our little savings and finished it within a few months. So anytime I talk about being in a financial mess in my articles, try to understand that I wasn’t saying that just for talking sake.

Well, I had to go back into the labour market later and vowed never to see what I saw earlier. Of course I got offers. That’s one good thing about being a teacher – there is always a job waiting when you are ‘ready’. This time, I tried to recoup all my lost savings, so I had several side hustles. I was doing tutorials (though I couldn’t go for home tutorials); I was doing minor importations from Aliexpress to sell; I was buying hair extensions from Onitsha to sell; I was sewing and selling bed sheets; you just name it. So long as that business will bring in a little change, I am all for it.

To ensure that I saved as much as I could, I didn’t employ nannies for my children, I didn’t employ any paid domestic help (and I wasn’t comfortable with bringing minors either), and I didn’t buy machines that could help me with some domestic chores. I was literally doing all the house chores and market purchases alone because I didn’t want it to look like I ignored my domestic duties in my quest for ‘wealth’. Funnily enough, I wasn’t even making much from all my side hustles (except the Aliexpress importations). Life was just too stressful for me until it started telling on my health. When my blood pressure started shooting up, I had to soft peddle and work smart, and not hard (don’t judge me, please). That was the moment I decided to change some of my lifestyles.

If you look at what I just shared up there you can easily point out where I made my mistakes. But I will still discuss them here.

The first thing is that I took a wrong advice and left my job while pregnant. Then, I didn’t have anyone that could tell me how to get around my difficult boss (this is why I still cherish social media because it brings the right people closer to you). Leaving that job was a very wrong decision on my side and it was done at a very wrong time. If I had talked to my boss, maybe he would have found a way to make things lighter for me.

I didn’t have a side hustle when I left my job. It would have acted as a cushion until I got back to my feet. Then, all I do was going to work and going back home to watch television and socialise, after all I cannot come and kill myself.

When I finally got back to the labour force, I was so afraid of re-meeting poverty and deprivation that I put all my energy into money-making. This almost cost me my life. I was actually working too hard without being smart about it.

Because I wanted to save as much as I could (I listened so much to those that advocate saving before spending), I didn’t use the money I made to buy help, be it machine or human help. This is a terrible mistake that most of us make.

Ok, I am going to give my reasons for believing that every woman should find something that will generate income for the family. But before I go into that, I would like to enjoin everyone that will say that his or her life won’t be like mine to think otherwise. I didn’t plan my life to be the way it was then. Of course I learnt from my mistakes and have been making some adjustments since then. In as much as our paths are different, you never can tell yours until you hit it. Well, these are some of the reasons women need to find sources of income:

  • In Case of Tragedy: Any woman I tell this always says “God forbid”. Yes o, God forbid indeed. But those young men that die, did they do anything in particular that caused that death? What do you think will become of their young wives if they don’t have a source of income? I have seen women that lost everything because they couldn’t provide for their children after the death of their husbands. We don’t pray for tragedies (be it death or divorce) to befall us, but we have to find ways of cushioning their effects should they come by. Anyway, let me not go into that here.
  • Reducing Stress for the Husband: I believe this is self-explanatory. Everybody here understands the tension of providing basic needs for himself not to talk of when dependents are involved. Sharing such a responsibility helps a lot.
  • Pulling Resources together to Finance a Family Project: Most projects undertaken and financed by both parties always come out successful.
  • They can plan better for the family

Having mentioned some of the reasons why women should work, I will now state the strategies working women employ to balance their family and work lives.

  1. Don’t Try to Be a Perfectionist: Like one woman told me then, I have been trying to be perfect in carrying out both my work and family duties. When we try to do both so perfectly, it tells on our health. Besides, it is almost impossible that we can achieve that.
  2. Buy Comfort with your Income: I learnt this from my mother. I was with her one day when she asked one woman, “What is the essence of making all these money if you can’t spend a little bit of it to make yourself comfortable?” I’m not saying that we should spend all we earn to make ourselves comfortable. But at least, we need to be able to relax after a long tiring day, don’t you think?
  3. Employ Help: I learnt this from one of the women groups I belonged to on Facebook. When one woman complained about the stress she passes through in her home after coming back in the evening, one of the comments she received was, “Why not use some of your income to buy machines that will make it easier for you.” This statement says a lot. So, I’ll say, “Employ both human and machine helps.” But if you are more comfortable with just one of them, go for it.
  4. Get your Partner to Help: There’s nothing wrong with your husband helping you out with some chores at home. Ask him first and take it from there.
  5. Train your Children to Help: This is one place African mothers are experts, though some of them are falling out here. We can train our children to help with little household chores depending on their age. This helps a lot, I can testify to that.
  6. Tailor your Side Hustles: See, side hustle is a must-do right now. In fact saving without side hustles is very difficult. The only thing I can say here is that you should tailor your side hustles so that they don’t add more stress to an already stressful life. Like I said in this post find a side hustle that you love doing and that doesn’t put pressure on you.
  7. Outsource some Domestic Chores: I learnt a lot about this while I was in Ibadan. Some women get people to do their washing for them even though they had washing machines. Some buy food in large quantities from food vendors to store in the freezers for the family (they usually do this for soup, sauce, moi-moi and things like that). And then ironing of clothes is usually outsourced to laundry shops. Some women equally buy things from the market and pay a little price for it to be processed there. For example, people now buy chicken and have it prepared in the market; we buy okro and they chop them for us there; ugu leaves are picked and cut in the market; and so many others. These are ways of making life easier and more bearable for working wives and mothers (as well as generate income for others).
  8. Have a ‘Me’ Day: Most women will understand this. This is every woman’s Achilles heel. If a woman doesn’t have a day to pamper herself, or have others pamper her, she will turn out antsy and grumpy. So, I’ll say, make out a day every month to have yourself to yourself. Life isn’t all about money. And those children, don’t worry, they will be fine. (I’ll come back in another post on ways we can have a successful ‘me’ day).
  9. Sleep and Rest Well: I laughed so hard yesterday when I watched a comic video clip where the character was complaining about motivational speakers telling people not to sleep too much and all. Alright, here it is – everybody needs to sleep very well to be very productive. Try not to lose your sleep over that job or business. I usually take Sundays afternoon as my nap-without-disturbance day. Find yours too. It is quite refreshing.

Dear women – mothers, wives, single and married – don’t tell yourself to wait any longer before you find a source of income. Please, go for that job you so much crave for. Don’t worry, you can balance your career and family lives. I just gave you my own strategies. You can adopt it or you might find other ones. But please, find something doing if you haven’t yet.

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4 thoughts on “How to Balance Career and Domestic Lives: Some Lessons from my Mistakes

  1. “The director of the branch where I was supposed to collect my appointment letter took one look at me and seized the letter.” This director must be mean…

    When experience teaches you something, it sinks deeper, more than what hundreds of lectures could achieve. And by experiencing it first-hand, Ozioma has emerged as Counsellor on Domestic Affairs – one of the toughest jobs out there.

    Nice piece.

    1. Thanks, Francis. We learn a lot from our mistakes. As for that director, I’ve been trying so hard not to judge him even though I’ve been hoping to meet him one day to tell him a little bit of my mind ?.


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