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Expert Insights on How Working Parents Can Achieve Balance with Joanne Dougan

November 17, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

Can working parents really have life balance? If you’re willing to adjust your perspective a little, Joanne Dougan, M.Ed and creator of Plan C Strategies, believes you can. 

eNannySource: Can working parents really achieve balance?

Joanne: Absolutely. If there is a will, there is a way, as my mother used to say.

A great place to start is to by defining what “life balance” means. There are people who see it like a scale where the two sides are equally weighted. Other people seek “quality time”, i.e. short bursts of time and attention, hoping that if they do it all they will feel balanced.  Another perspective — and the one I subscribe to – balance is about how you look at your life, and focusing on authentic life success is the goal, not the attainment of life balance.

eNannySource: What are your best tips for helping them find it?

Joanne: Begin with loving and accepting yourself. If there are things that you don’t like about yourself, love and accept yourself. If you are not able to truly love yourself, be truthful with yourself and at least one other person who is able to help you learn to love and accept yourself.

eNannySource: With all the stresses of raising children, do you think parents are able to live authentically?

Joanne: Yes. How are our children going to grow up to be authentic themselves if they are not being shown how to be real? The real stuff that is good — our talents as people that we bring to parenting — are easy. It’s the tough stuff we bring to parenting, our hurt and resentments, that is where we often find a lacking in authenticity.

For one, when I am wrong, I apologize to my kid. I let her know how it was my responsibility to have handled it differently. I tell her I recognize my behaviors/reactions and will focus on being aware of this part of my self. Not a big long story, but a moment of being humble, graceful and showing her how to handle being human, especially the yucky parts.

eNannySource: What are five steps parents can take to lead an authentic life?

Joanne: I believe strongly it is about choosing to focus on building life skills and emotional intelligence as an adult, as well as creating the family relationships that will last a lifetime.

How does one achieve this? The five steps that are the focus of my work, Plan C Strategies:

  • Breathe in and breathe out. This is important because it is a way to reset whatever one’s REACTION is so that they can get to a place of ACTION.
  • Small smile. This is important because it feels good. It gives you another moment to breathe in and out.
  • It’s not what is happening right now, it is how I am handling it right now. This is key: take personal responsibility for how you are handling whatever is happening. It is not about finding fault, it is about observing what is going on with curiosity. What are you doing right now?
  • Identify your values. We share values, even within huge differences.  Love is a great value and we all want it. Even if you are stressed out, tired, your kids are screaming or worse, the laundry/dinner/homework HAS TO BE DONE and you are completely at your wits end…to say nothing of co-parenting differences in these situations…Breathe in, breathe out…small smile….it’s not what’s happening right now, it’s how I am handling right now…I choose to focus on my value of love….
  • Define values based actions. This is where authenticity shows up. If you are focusing on your value of love, what are you doing? What do you do when you are expressing LOVE? If you can’t think of anything to do, breathe in and out. Smile. Over and over and over. If someone asks you why you are just sitting there smiling, answer: I don’t know what else to do. When you know what else to do based on your value of love, do that.

eNannySource: Why is living authentically important?

Joanne: Living authentically is really about being able to handle life as it shows up. Why is this important? It’s easier to handle life than to be in crisis mode or reaction mode all the time. It creates a calmer, less anxious environment as well as a sense of personal control.

eNannySource: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Joanne: “The art of parenting is teaching the art of living to your children.” – Elaine Heffner

This is a quote I came across when my child was young. If parents are not yet well-skilled in the art of living themselves, the most beneficial action they can take is to learn life skills and raise their own emotional intelligence. The parents will benefit themselves and their parenting experience will be authentically successful, as they will be able to teach the art of living to their children.


Joanne Dougan, M.Ed., was born in NYC.  From the age of 7 she rode the city bus alone to go to classes and visit friends. She had a favorite seat that was way in the back of the bus and it faced front. Next to it was a seat that was kitty corner. When people would walk up the aisle, she made eye contact and smiled. They would, if inclined, sit and start to talk. Strangers would tell her about their lives and their problems.  She knew she always wanted to be a teacher, advisor, counselor and coach.    

She is a graduate of Bard College and got a Master’s in counseling psychology from the University of Massachusetts.  She has maintained a private practice since 1988. She works in person as well as on Skype and Face Time with individuals, couples, families and small businesses — ages 10 – 100.

Her personal and professional journeys have led her to seek out the answer to what she feels is the fundamental question: what is “authentic success”?  Is emotional intelligence teachable? What are the most important life skills required to survive and thrive in our culture?  From these questions, Joanne created Plan C Strategies.

Joanne lives in the Boston area with her husband and their teenage daughter.  

You can find out more about Joanne on her LinkedIn page as well as her website www.planCstrategies.com


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