Work:Life Balance - myth or mantra?
I've recently decided that the concept of "work - life balance" is a crock; a fallacy; a myth whose time must end.
I spent many years reaping the benefit of having the work-life balance mantra, attracting a very strong and committed workforce due to my commitment to flexibility and tolerance - in fact, demanding - a balance between work and life from each and every one of my employees. And I've lived it myself, working most Friday's from my home, ensuring that no work was to be completed during vacations, being involved as the stat-keeper for varsity lacrosse for many many years. I wore the balance mentality as a badge of honor.
And now, in a much more flexible working situation, I realize the fallacy.
There is no balance between work and life; that phrase connotes a visible libra scale, on which we can place work demands on one pan and life demands on the other - completely separate, able to move time from one pan to the other as needed to reach the personal balance point specific to our personality and comfort. This is so discrete and analytical - no wonder it has appealed to my engineering brain!
The model falls apart for me in it's cleanliness. As an example, I can easily justify keeping work email from crossing into personal email, and vice versa; I have always been diligent in not crossing the streams, and found great discomfort when the school corporation emails starting showing up on my work email stream as I had reported secondary contact information - no way! But now expand the model to friends - isn't it possible to have friends at work, and work colleagues who are referred or who started as friends? My darling hubby, in times when I was in high stress, would remind me that you can't count on alleged friends at work, as they may align with the corporation when the chips are down. Hmmmm. He has a good point; but I can say that there are a few who have remained friends - some of whom I'd call if I needed bail money - resolving that friends, close friends, can be made at work. The lines start to blur.
Let's talk about time, the real crux of the balance issue. As I reflect on the past several years and key life events, the balance is not just between work and life; in fact, to think there are only 2 points to balance ignores the complexity of life's demands, life's relationships. The key events of the past 5 years have included job changes (too numerous for comfort); college prep; college graduation; wedding planning; deaths of too many loved ones; accidents & health issues, both large and thankfully small; long lost connections made and ignored; births; sorrows; celebrations. Any mom- no, check that, ANYONE will tell you that life is about keeping a number of plates spinning in the air, and that number can change based on phase of life, quarterly profit reports, daily calendars, or even hour by hour. And that's just because you're a high school kid trying to get into your dream school, or a parent with a new baby, or a newly retired consultant writing a blog that nobody reads.
Life has many facets, and to reduce the balance down to simply work vs the rest of life is doing your life a disservice. Balance, yes. Be deliberate about your tradeoffs and shifts, for sure. Focus on what you enjoy and are accomplished in doing (or want to learn) is key. It can be messy and unpredictable, but that's part of the joy of living!!