When I sat down to conduct my interview with Betty Liu, Bloomberg anchor and co-author of “Age Smart: Discovering the Fountain of Youth at Midlife and Beyond”, I went into it with my standard set of questions: How do you balance? What are your workouts like? Tell me some tips, etc. What I discovered however, was that after about 10 minutes I was wrapped up in real conversation with one of the most intelligent and inspirational working moms out there.
Sure, Betty Liu struggles like all of us. She has a demanding work schedule that keeps her busy anywhere from 8-12 hours a day. She also has the grueling commute back and forth from her home in New Jersey to her office in New York City. In addition, Liu is the mother of twin boys; Dylan and Zachary. Yet when asked about balance and making it work, Liu’s philosophy really came down to two beliefs: give everything 100% and make time for mommy. These philosophies, while seemingly complicated at first glance are actually quite simple.
According to Liu, “You must focus on one thing at a time. If you are at home, give your children 100% of your focus, if you are at work give your job 100%.”
Liu believes by committing yourself to each aspect of your life separately, you will have the opportunity to be more productive and more fulfilled in both your personal and professional life. Finding time for yourself is another important aspect in getting through your busy life while holding on to your sanity. Liu suggest scheduling what she calls, “Mommy breaks.” This can be anything from taking time to exercise to scheduling a mani/pedi for yourself to having dinner or drinks with friends. Liu believes by adding these breaks to your weekly schedule and committing to them much like you would a meeting or a play date, you will find yourself with a little time to exhale, get your focus back, and feel like yourself again.
While these commitments apply to every mom out there, the importance of them literally doubles when it comes to a mother of twins. Any mother will argue the exertion of being in the workforce combined with feedings, diaper changes and naps is a tough combo to juggle, but for a mother with twins there is twice the stress. So what is Liu’s advice for getting through twice the work in half the time? A good schedule. While in the beginning it is difficult to keep twins on the same schedule, as they grow older keeping a tight ship so to speak, is the key to keeping your household sailing smoothly. Anything from bath time to dinner time to story time should fall like clockwork each night. This will not only help your children get through the day with a bit more ease, but it will help you get your personal and professional tasks completed without feeling as if you have neglected your job as mommy.
This feeling of neglect and guilt led me to another question for Liu. How do you not feel guilty? With many mothers out there jumping back into the workforce soon after the birth of their babies, how do you continue on in your career without feeling as if you are failing to make your children your first priority? Liu’s answer to this was simple as well, “Don’t feel guilty; you’re not doing anything wrong.” As women, we are programmed to immediately feel as if we are in the wrong anytime we put ourselves or our needs in front of our children’s, but in reality by doing so on occasion, we are teaching our children important lessons. Those of you with sons are teaching them that women can be successful both as a mother and a professional and should be respected as such. Those of you with daughters are teaching them that not only is it okay to make yourself and your needs a priority, it is in some instances an absolute necessity. While Liu does believe in being there for children’s major milestones in life, she doesn’t believe a mother should feel guilty if she cannot make every event. Liu says, “Being a mother and having a career forces you to make tough choices. You cannot make everything in your child’s life and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. They may not understand right now, but as long as you’re there for the really important events, they will eventually understand and appreciate everything you’ve done.”
Of course even with all of this amazing advice, I was not about to say goodbye to Betty Liu without at least a bit of financial wisdom. So, for you moms out there who are single and are the superhero/breadwinner of the family, to those moms out there who are equal contributors to the big picture, here are some of Betty Liu’s best tips for securing you and your children’s future:
- Start a savings account TODAY… it is always best to have at least 6 month’s salary stashed away. Whether you lose your job, incur unexpected medical expenses, or simply find yourself with a home or car in need of repairs, having this little nest egg will ensure that you can take care of your bills and your family.
- Have a Life Insurance policy in place… no one wants to imagine a tragedy happening, but the truth is that we never know what tomorrow will bring. Having a sizeable insurance policy in place for yourself will help ease the burden on loved ones and keep your children financially secure.
- Get your affairs in order – a Will to be exact… again, death is typically the last thing on our minds but there is no way to know when it will happen. Having a Will in place that details your wishes for your house, your personal items and who should care for your children is important to guarantee that the people you love are properly cared for.
- Familiarize yourself with investing… if you haven’t already, start a 401K account. With so many types of investments out there, you can decide if you want to invest your money conservatively or take risks. Whether you do so through your place of employment or a separate financial institution, this little investment could be the difference between retiring well or literally working yourself to death.
So take this time and give yourself a little pat on the back. No matter what your career, your number of children or your level of tolerance, you have already committed yourself to a lifetime of the toughest job out there! Take care of yourself; take care of your children. The rest will eventually work itself out.
For more information on Betty Liu and her book, “Age Smart: Discovering the Fountain of Youth at Midlife and Beyond”, click here: http://www.bettyliu.com/