Health experts have spoken for years about the importance of work/life balance. The reason is because that balance is the healthy way to make the most of both family and work life. It’s easy to get overly involved in work or parenting, which can tip the scales unfavorably for everyone involved. Those parents who can manage a healthy balance are actually more productive, less stressed, and happier. In situations where parents are busy corporate executives with high expectations at work, it can be especially difficult to find the perfect balance.
Two AT&T executives have found a way to manage life by balancing work with family. Roberta Robinette, President of AT&T-Colorado, and Jennifer Price, Director of External Affairs at AT&T-Colorado, agreed to speak with Denver Parent about how they manage a healthy work/life balance.
Both Robinette and Price are also registered lobbyists involved with all things AT&T at the Capitol – legislation, communication with stakeholders such as Colorado’s Governor, Mayor and City Council, and they’ve been integral in having Colorado join the nation’s first broadband network for emergency responders called FirstNet built by AT&T.
For both of them, a typical day is non-existent. They are continually facing different work situations often with a lack of predictability, which includes early morning board meetings, travel, and evening events. Some days they are out the door by 7am and home by 8pm. Other days are more flexible. It’s not necessarily a 9-5 job. Fortunately, AT&T is results-based and empowers employees to maintain a positive work/life balance, something more and more companies are doing.
Having worked for AT&T for almost 20 years, Roberta Robinette leads a busy executive life as well as remaining a nurturing and active mom. She has a nine-year old son and it’s important for her to make sure she’s spending the quality time with him to help him thrive.
“Managing my calendar means knowing what my priorities are,” said Robinette. “There’s the mom perspective and then there’s the professional perspective. Knowing which work events I have to show up for right away and which I do not is helpful in prioritizing my schedule. That means balancing what I have to do versus what’s a ‘nice to do’. I try to look at the big picture and over the years, I’ve gotten a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.”
Fortunately for Robinette’s entire family, she gets lots of help from her mom, who lives in her home and handles getting her son ready for school as well as transportation to after-school activities. Her husband, who is self-employed, also has a bit of flexibility.
“I know I’m one of the lucky ones to have this extra help, which is why I admire the efforts single moms and dads and parents without extended family nearby to find their optimum work/life balance,” added Robinette.
The biggest challenge is managing her schedule and prioritizing. “It takes time to get the work/life balance just right,” said Robinette. “When you step into a role like this, as both professional and mom, it’s easy to feel like you have to do everything and be perfect.”
The rewards of the oft-used term, ‘having it all” for Robinette is that she gets to see her child grow into a magnificent person and discover what he’s all about. Work-wise, she gets the benefits of staying intellectually fresh, achieving professional accomplishments, and using her adult brain inside and outside of her home life.
Then there’s the old adage of “me time”. Robinette says this is her last priority but when she does have the opportunity, her family may spend time elsewhere and she’ll take that weekend to enjoy for herself.
“Whether it’s taking myself to get a mani/pedi, or escape into a good book, I understand the importance of me-time,” said Robinette. “It’s rejuvenating and the result is that I’m able to be focused both on my family and my work.”
Having done both contract and in-house work for AT&T, Jennifer Price works with local government, in an effort to expand wireless coverage and make sure the right public policy is in place. Like Robinette, every day is different and she works all sorts of hours. The challenge is balancing her role as mom to her eight-year-old daughter and three-year-old son with her travel time which averages once a month. Still, she can work from home from time to time and has flexibility when it comes to planning her schedule both in terms of work, running the household and spending quality time with her kids.
“The key to managing this kind of busy life is to remember that you have an entire week,” said Price. “I used to think of my day as just that day, but now I realize a week is a full seven days and there’s a lot I can fit in to be available both at the office and for my children. I think parents who face this challenge will feel guilty about it in some way, as if they’ve dropped a ball somewhere. The key is figuring out what’s going to break in terms of your situation at home or at work if you’re not there. If you can do that, you’ll feel more in control.”
Price believes it’s important for moms and dads to show their kids that what they do is important, and that they are out in the world doing something that has value and makes them feel good.
“Not only does working give you another identity, but when your kids understand that it’s okay to work and be a parent, they will grow up figuring out how they can manage that sort of thing in their futures,” added Price. “I really enjoy the work that I do. It’s my dream job. And as they say, ‘a happy mom means a happy house.’ I am challenged on all fronts in a great way and appreciate all the time with my family.”
When it comes to getting “me-time” for Price, she says she has an incredible husband, who, while working full time, supports her work and understands the need for self-care.
“We exercise a lot and we’re creative,” said Price. “It’s not about cramming everything in during a five-day period. We have all week to enjoy each other at various times and we really do support each other so we all feel valued and loved.”
Another way Price handles a successful work/life balance is that she outsources as much as she can, because moms and dads can’t do everything. She is a firm believer in getting help when needed.
“I’ve had to let a lot of the guilty feelings go, and that takes time,” added Price. “When I was nursing and hauling a pump around through security as I traveled I kept feeling the mom guilt. But now that my kids are a bit older they understand and know that I’m there for them and that helps.”
Main Featured Photo credit: Brian Inderwies