Work/Life Balance: Q&A with Expert Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla

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Art Credit: Nima Salimi

Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla— lawyer, professor, consultant, and mother of nine—is now taking questions! Submit your questions to Rebecca at ohhello@verilymag.comRead Verily's June/July print feature "From The Trenches" to hear more about how Rebecca manages to balance work and life—and embraces the adventure. Subscribe to Verilyhere.

Q:When I'm too overwhelmed by the amount of work on my plate and take an afternoon off or a night to myself, I often feel guilty. How much me time do you think is fitting to keep a good home/work balance?

A: It sounds like you are asking for an "Am I being selfish" check, and I constantly ask myself the same question. As a mother, I know it would be absurd for us to demand that our children live selflessly if we don't first set the example. But just like on an airplane, the crew asks that an adult put on his own oxygen mask before assisting a child, you have to care for yourself before caring for others.

The challenge is finding the right balance. Modern society has convinced many moms that motherhood is a bed of roses. The reality is that being a mom is a labor of love. Motherhood is a lifetime of sacrifice. Whether you stay home full-time, work part-time (like me), or work full-time, you have signed up for a life of service the moment you become a mother.

All of us need recreation. Recreation means we recreate and center our lives. We recharge. We find strength for the challenges ahead. Instead of waiting for a fire drill to recreate, set up a reasonable, regular time to be alone.

Q: Have you ever struggled with guilt and how do you overcome that?

A: I believe that a conscience, properly formed, is a good guide. I work part time, and I try to stay sensitive to that feeling of guilt to help guide my work choices. I welcome the guilt because it helps me know when the balance is lost. Instead of "overcoming" the guilt, try listening to your conscience.

Q: How do you make time for you and your husband in the midst of your deadlines and responsibilities to your children?

A: My husband and I schedule a "date night" each week, when possible. We chat for 1/2 hour while we get ready in the morning and try to sit down together at the end of every day. I also set up a plan that outlines when I have time alone during the day to reflect. Sometimes my schedule only allows for 10-15 minutes in the morning, and 10-15 minutes at night. I guard that time because I know it prepares me to be a better wife and mother.

Q: It is difficult for me to make time for exercise within my busy schedule. How do you maintain health and fitness when you're so busy?

A: Ha! You have hit upon a weakness of mine. I have grown allergic to exercise. Being a mom is such an active lifestyle that I never find myself eating ice cream in front of the television. But exercise is a good thing, so try to find a time when your husband or a friend can be with the kids.

Q: I am currently passionate about my work and consider my career to be very meaningful. I know that relationships and family are just as important as my career, if not more so, but how do I avoid the tendency to justify overworking?

A: First, think of the long-term. A meaningful work career is by nature more rewarding and easier in the present tense. Motherhood is usually thankless, menial, and tedious. It is easier to work in corporate America. Raising a family is harder and, often times, boring. I value what lasts, and I set my priorities accordingly. I subscribe to the traditional prioritization of life: family vocation first, profession second.

Work to live. Don't live to work. That means that I decline career adulation when there is a direct avoidable conflict with my vocation to my family. I find it impossible to perform well at work when my husband and children aren't taken care of first.

Submit your questions to Rebecca at ohhello@verilymag.com.