You read it right. There is no such thing as Work-Life Balance. There, I said it. Now, do you feel relieved because you always thought it was unattainable or worse because you were hoping you could still get there?
The concept of work-life balance originated back in the 70s and has been discussed and analyzed for decades. We probably all have a mental picture of a life-sized, teeter-totter balanced with work on one side and personal life on the other. Balance implies equal weight, and anything less than balanced implies failure. In all honesty, do you really want work to consume 50 percent of your life? That equals 84 hours a week! I hope you are not there yet.
It’s no wonder we struggle with this concept. With so much to fit into our lives: work, exercise, relaxation, entertainment, relationships, social life, errands, personal and household maintenance, family schedules, sleep…how is one person supposed to fit it all in? Whether you are a mom, a daughter, a partner, a wife, a friend, or any combination, we all have the same issues in this area. We continuously ask ourselves, “How do I do it all? How do I have it all?”
I, for one, think we are all very strong and powerful women, who have the unique ability to be amazing jugglers. If only we got to choose what we’re juggling – pretty balls, eggs, bowling pins, or machetes! I think we feel like we’ve lost that ability to choose, and no matter what we’re juggling, we’re scared to death to find out what happens if/when we finally drop one.
So instead of the old work-life balance theme, let’s consider the ABC’s of a Fulfilling Life.
- A+ Care
A+ care for you has to come first. You can’t take care of anyone or anything effectively if you don’t take care of yourself. So stop trying to fool yourself that you can.
First things first – no matter what 12 things you are juggling, take a deep breath, and step back. In reality, the most important thing is always what you are doing at any given moment. Be completely present in everything that you do. If you’re at work, be the best employee you can be while you’re there. With your children, be the best mom you can be while you’re with them. If you’re volunteering at church, be the best volunteer you can be while you’re there.
Be a little kinder to yourself, forgive yourself when you need to, and never beat yourself up. Too often, we as women assume that we need to do everything. Who said you had to do it all anyway? So give yourself a break. Ask for help and ask for what you need. Can you delegate? Is there an opportunity for you to hire some things out? What can you do to lighten your load? Find a few things and make the change. You deserve it. And don’t let your desire to control everything be your barrier to handing things off to others!
This is one area where women tend to be soft, especially in trying to achieve work-life balance. Boundaries are imaginary lines we put in place to let others know what they can and cannot do to and around us.
Many times our frustrations about balance are really about not having appropriate boundaries in place and not enforcing them. We need to set our own boundaries. No one is going to set them for us. In fact, until others know what your boundaries are, they just might run all over them! If that means you have to leave at 5:30 p.m.every day because that’s when the kids are home from school or your mother counts on your daily visit in the nursing home for dinner, then set that boundary with the appropriate people.
Your boundaries may even bring about benefits for others as well. For example, one client had to set boundaries with her boss about staying late at the office, which cut into her family time at home. Once the boundary was set, the boss had to get better at organizing his time, others started putting similar boundaries in place, and the whole office started working much more smoothly. Instead of constantly putting out fires at the last minute, expectations were clearly understood, and they found the best way to get the work done.
Choices are made by our priorities and values. Different things may take center stage at different times in our lives. In my thirties, my job was a J-O-B to me and not a career. My priorities were always around what my family needed. I always gave everything I had while I was at work, but at 5 o’clock, my mind left work behind (you’re right, we didn’t have laptops then). In my forties, that changed with my children leaving the nest. All of a sudden, it was all about my career. I spent a lot more time working and focusing on what I wanted. These were natural choices for me. You have your own natural choices to make; none are good or bad, and they are yours and yours alone to make. Make sure you are the one choosing what you want to juggle!
According to numerous articles I’ve read related to this issue, the terminology of this generation is “Work-Life Blend”. At least that doesn’t imply perfection, but rather something that is dynamic and flexible. What a relief!
This article in Time Magazine by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall goes one step further by challenging the thought that ‘work’ is bad and ‘life’ is good. They suggest you spend one week in love with your job. Sounds crazy right? They go on to explain that by assigning your work activities to either a “love it” or “loathe it” category, you can identify ways to change your work to fit your strengths better. Sounds like a challenge doesn’t it?
To follow their lead, you need to change the content of your job over time so that it contains more things that you love. Easier said than done? Maybe you could just try it for a week and see where you end up?
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