The topic of work/life balance is so frequently in the news, often with a negative connotation. Typically, this conversation seems to be exclusive to women (although men are certainly impacted by the same issue). We are all in pursuit of this highly sought after notion of “balance.” But what does balancing work with the entire rest of your life really mean anyway? A recent New Statesman article astutely pointed out that the “life” part of the work/life balance discussion for women is often really just more work (i.e. childcare responsibilities, household tasks, etc.).

The topic can frankly feel discouraging.

I would argue that the many stories on work/life balance usually fail to capture the fact that millions of working families are literally finding ways to “make it work” every day. Most working parents aren’t miserable, haggard, stressed out messes trying desperately to hold it all together on the way out the door each day. Quite the contrary, in fact. The sunny reality of work/life balance is that it actually works for many working families.

True, juggling a job and kids can sometimes feel like a struggle. Work commitments are often overwhelming (and sometimes those kiddos can be overwhelming too). However, savvy Chicago-area working parents are finding ways to make their busy schedules work — and that includes time for date night, exercise and yes, even fun.

Recently the nation’s leading au pair placement agency Cultural Care Au Pairconducted a survey of 600 families to learn more about work-life balance and overall satisfaction in various areas of their lives. Survey results revealed that parents feel strongly that exercise and socializing with adult peers play a significant role in achieving work life balance.

  • 82.8% of respondents report that a healthy lifestyle is important in achieving work-life balance.
  • 68.6% of respondents say time with their partner, spouse or friends is important in achieving work /life balance.

It turns out that not every working parent is rushing out of the office to get back home to make it to Junior’s piano lessons or to tackle the lawn work.

Participants in the survey indicated that the “life” part of the work/life balance equation included activities that they found to be fun or relaxing. And these parents aren’t afraid to prioritize their own wellness.

  • “Work-life balance means working hard when you are there and enjoying family, friends when you are home and taking time for yourself,” stated one mom.
  • “I look forward to having time for myself – to workout, spend time with friends, etc. in addition to quality time with my kids and spouse,” said another respondent.

The survey also revealed that reliable childcare options help parents take care of their own needs and that “down time” is important when it comes to finding balance.

  • “We are able to have a regular date each week,” shared one survey respondent.
  • “I am more balanced in both work and life,” said another mom about having childcare and other support resources available. “It is easier to plan for last minute scheduling changes.”

“We know that the topic of work/life balance is really individual to each family,” says Marcie Wolbeck, Local Development Director for Cultural Care Au Pair. “But I always encourage the families that we work with to take into account the needs of everyone in the family – including your own. And know that there are resources like childcare and other outside support that can help you achieve the balance you are looking for,” she adds.

I’d love to hear your take on work/life balance and what it means for you. What factors/resources help ensure that everyone in your family gets their needs met? What do you do for YOU to find a sense of balance when life feels busy and chaotic? How do you make room for FUN?

Caitlin Murray Giles is the co-founder of 2 Moms Media LLC.. Caitlin wears many different hats, but her favorite gig is being mom to the three little people in her life. After the birth of her first child in 2004, she traded her days as an attorney in Cook County courtrooms for play dates on the Chicago park scene. Inspired by her new life as a mother, Caitlin began writing about her parenting experiences and working as a brand ambassador for companies looking to make connections with real moms. Caitlin saw first-hand that many traditional marketing strategies simply didn’t resonate with savvy moms and she knew that there were better ways to make authentic connections. Before long, she found herself in the business of marketing to parents in Chicago and beyond. Caitlin is grateful for the opportunity to grow her business by leveraging her experience as a modern-day mom and a marketer to help clients looking to do “mom comm” right. She resides in Wicker Park with her family.