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Balancing Career and Family Life as a Black Woman

Navigating the tightrope between a buzzing career and a nurturing home life is not for the fainthearted. Especially for us black women, this balancing act takes on a few additional layers, with societal expectations, workplace biases, and cultural norms all adding their unique challenges. But amidst these hurdles, there's a sweet spot of balance that not only fuels our professional aspirations but also enriches our family life.

black woman working with kids

Historical Context and Modern Challenges

Our history is rich with stories of Black women who wore multiple hats long before it was acknowledged or appreciated by society. These women laid the foundation for us, showing resilience and tenacity in the face of systemic barriers. Today, we carry forward their legacy, albeit facing our unique set of modern challenges, from battling stereotypes in the workplace to managing the expectations of being the cornerstone of our families. And let's not forget the "superwoman" syndrome, where the pressure to excel in every aspect of life can take a toll on our mental health.

The Unique Challenges We Face

Intersectionality Isn't Just a Buzzword

It's real. Being a black woman means we're often at the crossroads of gender and racial biases, which can make our climb up the career ladder and our journey toward a fulfilling home life a bit more complex. We're juggling not just work deadlines and family dinners but also societal stereotypes and systemic barriers.

black women friends

Workplace Bias: More Than Just a Nuisance

Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's very blatant. And if you're like me, although I'm not naive and have experienced workplace bias before, sometimes it still takes me aback. I can remember being told I was too aggressive and direct or didn't know how to keep a "straight face", the latter seemed to be 'funny' at first, but after being told this multiple times, even at times when I knew I wasn't actually showing my emotions, I knew that it was more than just not having a pokerface.

These biases can dampen our career prospects, making it crucial for us to advocate for ourselves and seek out equitable opportunities fiercely. Not just that, experiencing these biases too often makes it hard to seek help and share your struggles at work. It makes work not feel like a safe space, which leads to us having the mindset of 'I'll do it on my own'. All the while, it might've been a whole lot easier if you hadn't experienced these biases to go to HR or your manager with a thorough belief they can help you with, for example, your work-life balance.

Navigating the Workplace as a Black Woman

The workplace can often feel like a battlefield, especially for us. Learning to advocate for myself when I didn't agree with certain behaviours. And ultimately that sometimes meant I had to leave the workplace, as I chose my mental well-being over anything else. 

It's also crucial to find employers who value diversity and work-life balance. Remember, the right workplace will respect your boundaries and support your needs.

black women working on laptop

The Power of Saying No

Saying no was a lesson I learned late in life. I've always said yes to most things, even if I didn't feel up for it. I used to take on extra work, hoping somehow to prove my worth, which looking back really didn't matter because where are those people now? I only ended up feeling overwhelmed, drained and unhappy. Setting boundaries at work and any other aspect of life really, is essential for protecting your time and energy for what truly matters: your well-being and family.

Prioritising Self-Care and Mental Health

Recognising the Signs of Burnout

Historically I know that within the black community burnout and mental health issues weren't recognised or taken seriously. I can remember during my internships a few women suffered from burnout and thought that wasn't something our community deals with. We're strong and carry on. And although we are strong we do carry on, mainly because sometimes society doesn't let us take a breather, burnout is a real and present danger, especially when you're trying to be everything to everyone. I've been there, feeling exhausted yet restless, questioning if I could keep up with it all. Recognising these signs early and taking action is crucial.

working woman feeling seemingly stressed

Incorporating Self-Care Practices

Self-care isn't selfish; it's necessary. And I know, between being a mum, working woman, wife and/or daughter, it's not always easy to find time for yourself. I know it's easier to just get stuff done for others and move whatever it is that you had planned for yourself to the next day, and then the day after that and so on. But whether it's a quiet morning with a journal, a quick workout or reading a book, finding those moments for yourself will be a sanity saver. It's about doing whatever fills your cup so you can pour into others without running dry.

Embracing Flexibility and Adaptability

Life is unpredictable, and if there's one thing motherhood and work have taught me, it's the art of being flexible. Embracing change, rather than resisting it, can lead to unexpected opportunities and joy. And when you manage to nail that presentation at work after a sleepless night with a sick child. Or even when you've been running around cleaning up after the kids and you still manage to wash your hair or go for a 15-minute walk. Take a moment to celebrate every win, how big or small.

woman working with baby

Building Our Tribe

They say it takes a village, and it's true. Not just for raising children, but also for your own well-being and happiness. Building a support network of family, friends, and fellow moms can ease the load. From sharing childcare duties and even stories to venting about work challenges. Don't underestimate the power of a strong support system; it can make all the difference in navigating this balancing act.

Stories of Success and Resilience

I'm constantly inspired by the stories of Black women who've navigated these same waters. From friends that go to University later in life to other mums juggling both motherhood and raising their children. Even the girls that go against societal norms because the job or the partner or both just don't feel right. Nothing is scarier than stepping out of your comfort zone, but knowing that it's the best thing to do for you is so powerful. Each story reminds me that with resilience, support, and a bit of creativity, it's possible to thrive both at home and at work.

Lessons Learned

Every story comes with its set of lessons. Whether it's the importance of setting boundaries, finding joy in the little moments, or the power of perseverance, these narratives offer invaluable insights for our own journey. So, take your lessons with pride and reflect on them whenever you can. It'll help you navigate the challenges to come.

Final thoughts

Balancing career and family as a black woman is undoubtedly challenging, but it's also incredibly rewarding. It's about finding that unique balance that works for you, embracing our multiple roles, and continually striving for professional but most importantly personal fulfilment.

Let's keep the conversation going, supporting each other through shared experiences and collective wisdom. Together, we can navigate the complexities of this balancing act, breaking barriers and setting new benchmarks for success.

Remember, it's not about perfection but progress. And in this journey, know that you're not alone.

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