Work Life Balance: Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First!

Work Life Balance: Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First!

work life balance - put on oxygen mask
© hasloo / 123RF

Expat women have to juggle a crazy amount of balls. You have the demands of your job, the logistics of living in a new area and managing your kids’ soccer practice, the daily dinners, running errands, finding activities for the vacances, replying to emails, coordinating weekly schedules, spending time with friends, helping a client through a problem, meeting your deadlines and not to mention being supportive of your spouse’s career.

It’s not a bad thing, really. My schedule is crazy, and every time I keep it balanced, I give myself a huge pat on the back. But, quiz time: what happens when you worry about getting the oxygen mask on someone else before yourself? Answer: you’re going to pass out and be useless to everyone.

Expat Mother
© Angela Waye / Shutterstock


It’s important to remember that your productivity is going to be shot if your eyes start reading “GAME OVER”, so take some time for yourself (you deserve it, girl!) before diving in.

How do you put on your expat professional Wonder Woman oxygen mask first?

1. Fuel your passions (plural!)

Expat Women

It’s easy to get tunnel vision and start treating it more like a job than a passion-oriented career. You forget why you started and that’s a one-way train to “I hate my job”-ville. If you’re unemployed, things tend to look even worse: the “who am I” and “what am I” are questions arise on a daily basis.

  • Remember the big picture: how you got here and why you do what you do. Reconnect with what motivated you and pursue that once again. Was it for fun connections? Then reach out to the community and make some new ones. Was it for the work itself?
  • If you’re an artist, take the time to work on your hobby projects; you’ll get encouraging feedback if you share (which will help you in work mode), you’ll be able to stretch your creative muscles; and more than anything, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself.
  • Maybe it’s for the experience – then get out there. Walk the streets of Paris and fall in love with your own journey.

2. Meet inspiring people

Expat Women

  • Instead of finding yourself in the same rut with the same people, reach out to social media and get talking with interesting new people.
  • Visit a convention and strike up conversation with a speaker there (if you’re like me and aren’t naturally social, take a deep breath and go for it).
  • Email someone you find inspiring.

Even if you’re the most introverted person in the world, you still need some one-on-one socialization and you’ll feel better for it. As an added bonus, you’ll learn things from these new inspiring people that can only add to your work, your passions, and your personal life.

3. Try new experiences

work life balance - woman rock climbing
© Nejron/123RF


Skills aren’t something you can just exchange; they pile up until you are a collection of the weirdest, coolest, and most impressive skills you’ve found over the years. Experiences are the same way (plus they’re fun).

  • Maybe you have no idea what creating and running a blog has to do with being an expat nurse, but guess what? This gives you the chance to get in contact with people who know the expat experience, meet people who need advice from your field, and learn some really valuable lessons in communication. This is only the beginning.
  • Do volunteering in a completely different field.
  • Take up a course for an unrelated job.
  • Try hang-gliding… not sure how that one would be useful, but why not?

4. Open your mind to learning new things

Expat Women

  • While researching may sound more like work than fun, or you feel you don’t have the time because you have so much to do, it can actually be fun and super valuable for that huge to-do list of yours. I’m not talking about dusty old tomes in a library with a warden of a librarian, but reading funny articles about something in your field.
  • Find classes to better your skills (if you’re into pottery, imagine the creations you can make while you’re learning)
  • Browse social media for some [insert your job] specific problems (which pinpoint your weaknesses that you can improve upon and learn about)
  • Or, watch some videos (if you’re into cinematography, that very short Vine clip could actually teach you something!)

Want more? How about a private French cooking class? A patisserie and chocolate-oriented guided tour? Read a book on a completely new subject… just diversify your routine.

5. Take a break

Expat Women
© Nickolya / Shutterstock


It’s important to take a moment and breathe once in a while. Being the perfectionist overachiever that I am, there are a lot of times where I’ll be trying so hard to get all my ducks in a row (crazy how new ones keep appearing!) that I forget how a good ol’ fashioned break can do wonders. Yes, we have responsibilities and yes, we all wear endless hats – moms, spouses, career women, neighbors, experts, dreamers, daughters and so on.

But remember, we, as women, are more than just moms to everyone else. It’s important to cherish your days off and actively shut off your analytical expat work-brain for a bit. Those problems and challenges will be there tomorrow and one day won’t be the end of the world. After this, you’ll have a clearer mind and be more emotionally well-balanced – which in the end will make you more productive overall!

Have comment or experience to share? We'd love to hear from you!

If you have a comment for Rita, or would like to share an experience with us, we invite you to leave a comment in the box below this article!

Rita Golstein-Galperin is a multicultural expat living in Paris and a Career Makeover Strategist® for expat women. She created Expat Renaissance to help women rediscover, reinvent and redefine their professional-awesome-self while thriving overseas! Combining her honed strategic problem solving skills and widely interdisciplinary background as lawyer, entrepreneur, public policy professional, economist and lecturer she helps women get unstuck and embrace new opportunities abroad, whether in the job market or starting (and growing) their own business.



14 − 14 =

All comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment right away, please be patient. It may be posted soon. There's no need to post your comment a second time. Thank you!