My boss, a retired Navy admiral, likes to tell this joke about a conversation he had with his wife:
Her: You’re the General and I’m the Major.
Him: That’s great! Sounds good to me.
Her: Right. You make all of the general decisions and I make the major ones.
I love this joke. It got me thinking though. I was talking with a good friend the other night about balancing our work and home personas. In the five and a half years that I’ve been married I have learned that the things that make you a successful professional woman are often your downfall at home.
See, at work we are in charge. When we ask people to do things, they do them. And when something doesn’t happen, there are consequences – a stern meeting, a negative performance review, the axe. At home? Not so much.
For instance, because I am admittedly a Type A+ personality, I keep a running list of things I need to do. I am very much a let’s-just- get-this-done-NOW type of person. My sense of urgency and high level of organization enable me to get a lot of big things done at work. If you asked Dr. D. his biggest pet peeve about my personality, it would be that I am scheduled to the hilt. I live and die by my to-do lists. I meet once a week with all of my direct reports to review the status of projects and initiatives that are underway. All of it rolls up into one big to-do list which I rework and revise a few times a week. Now Dr. D. hates to-do lists and looked at me cross-eyed when I once suggested we had Sunday evening sit downs to sync our schedules (okay, maybe it was a bit extreme). I get around it by sharing MY schedule with him (via email) and flagging days I need to work late or change the nanny schedule, etc. I’ve discovered this little work around is usually a good prompt for him to share any schedule changes he’s got going for the week too.
Another case in point, I am an extreme planner. With my schedule, I have to be. I can plan pretty much anything with my eyes closed. Need me to plan your life too? Drop me a line. I got you. Dr. D. is the Anti-Planner. He hates it. He will only do it when forced at the last minute. My extreme need to plan and his extreme need to not plan often collide. The old me used to try to force Dr. D. to conform to my planning OCD but the me of today only pushes a plan when I know there are very specific things that have to happen by a firm deadline. Because I know he prefers to take his time to digest information, I’ll typically send him an email with the major deadlines that we have to make decisions on. We’ll then have a brief discussion and that is that. Unlike at work, I will not check up with him multiple times unless it’s something very urgent. I have to be honest though, this is an area that we are still working on because our styles and personalities are so different.
I ask a lot of questions. I’ve found in my professional life that asking thoughtful questions (sometimes the same one posed differently) yields a lot of information and can draw a person out. In my line of work we call it appreciative inquiry. Dr. D. calls it interrogation. It took me awhile to learn that Dr. D. thought all of my questions (say, about our vacation plans) meant I didn’t trust him when what I really was doing was just making conversation and trying to solicit his opinion. Who knew? Now I know.
I admit that lately, I’ve not done such a good job of keeping Miss Bossy in check. When I’m stressed she tends to make an appearance. And these last few weeks I find that with my busy home life (four kids for the summer) and a job at full tilt, I’m on the treadmill running as fast as I can. I have a 45 minute commute to and from work so I try to use that time on the road to decompress and make the mental transition from work to home. I’ve also found that working out at lunch time a few times a week has helped my stress level. I’ve gotta be honest though, I’ve by no means cracked the code on this one.
What about you? Do you find it difficult to compartmentalize your work and home personalities? How do you balance the two?