Work-life balance is a concept we are all familiar with, it is the ideal of properly prioritizing between “work” and “lifestyle”. Stated another way it is the balance between your job and your home life. The terminology drives me crazy and has long been a pet-peeve of mine. Work-life balance does not mean equal parts work and lifestyle; there are not enough hours in the day for that. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various jobs and personal activities is not only unrealistic, it is likely an unrewarding proposition. Can you really want to spend the same number of hours folding laundry or on a conference call or working out or writing a report? This is why the term, work-life balance, drives me nuts! It is a goal, so many strive for, and beat themselves up trying to achieve and it is also a grossly incorrect labeled term.
I believe we each have a work-life EQUATION that works for each of us and our families. I also believe that equation changes over time, as we age, as our circumstances change, and as our children age. Our lives are complex equations, likely quadratic equations not simple linear equations. Work is not simply our job, but it is also the other necessary things in life, such as laundry and cleaning. Yes laundry is work; it is a necessary evil in life, something that just has to get done. Most would argue that cleaning activities fall under the “life” part of work-life balance. How can you ever hope to balance the scales when you have only one thing, your job, on one side and about a zillion other things on the other side, i.e. self, family, friends, etc.? Obviously each of these broad categories such as self could be broken down even further to working out, relaxing, eating, etc. So why do we set ourselves up to fail striving for something called balance?
My husband and I were married 5 years before we decided to have children, and during those first five years my work-life equation was heavily skewed towards work. I worked 50-60 hours a week and met my husband for weeknight 8 p.m. dinners at our favorite restaurants. My equation was more of a 2A +1F = Happy Lisa. After my first born entered our lives, I worked a flex part-time schedule, some weeks I worked less than 20 hours and some weeks I worked more than 40 hours, always averaging 30 hours per week for the month. My work-life equations were all over the place, sometimes 1W + B^2 + .5F = Happy Lisa. Then I became pregnant with my second child and my husband moved to another country. Pregnant, caring for a child under the age of one, living as a single parent for 3 months, and working part-time altered my equation yet again. I never strove for balance because that would have been impossible. However, when I am happy, I feel balanced. That is the only balance we should strive for, the balance of being happy and fulfilled. Am I achieving and enjoying? Am I doing these both in the short-term and in the longer-term? These are the questions we should ask ourselves.
No one can truly do it all. Our equations are as unique as ourselves. Let’s do away with the concept of work-life balance and just focus on our work-life equation making us happy individuals with happy families.