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Work/Life What?

Why being present is more important than finding balance

by Carla  |  4395 views  |  6 comments  |        Rate this now! 

For all the efforts my company might make, no flex time or raise or relocation or laptop or on-site childcare center could create true work/life balance. Could I use more time with my daughter? Always. But, let's be honest, I can't work from home without hiring someone to watch her while I work. I can't work less because more hours equals more pay and we always need that. A day care on-site wouldn't take care of the laundry, dishwasher, cat litter, dry cleaning or oil change (and by no means, teach me about wine tasting, allow me to travel or how to drive a standard).

It's impossible to achieve work/life balance. It's just another way to make women think they have to do it all. It suggests that your work and your life carry the same value- these are both equally important so learn to juggle them at the same time. I don't know about you but my job and my life mean very, VERY different things for me. I work for corporate America; it pays the bills and doesn't come home with me at the end of the day. Life to me is soaking up every laugh and burp and pout and squeal of my 4.5 month old daughter. Life is feeling alive and wanting to travel and learning to snow board. Tell me how exactly I'm supposed to balance that kind of work/life? And imagine squeezing in the duties of life...errands and house work...yikes!

Instead of working to achieve balance, I believe women need to focus on being present. Since having my daughter and returning to work, I've learned one lesson that has been invaluable. When I'm at work, I'm present 100% and I give 100%. When I'm home, I'm present 100% and I give 100%. Does everything get done? Not always. But I'm not short changing anyone and that's what matters. And what does get done, I can be certain was done with 100% of my attention and effort. When I apply this philosophy, I feel a lot better about my day because I know that I gave my all and tried my best.

When I was trying to achieve "work/life balance", I found myself getting stressed out and disappointed. I wasn't giving it my all because I was too focused on doing 50 things at a "just ok" level instead of maybe 10 things really, really well (alright, really only 5 things super well). Everything doesn't have to get done. Just be sure that what does get done, gets done right.

6 comments so far...

  • I like the 100 percent concept. But that's not always possible either. I remember the day I had an important, absolute cannot miss interview and less than a half-hour before, the school called because they thought my daughter wasn't feeling "up to par."

    My husband couldn't pick her up because he had to be at the crucial interview, too. (He's a photog; I'm a reporter and we often work together.) So it had to be me because you can do the interview by phone later; you can't take the pictures later.

    I pick up my daughter, she seems fine, so I drop her off at after school and dash to my interview. Finish interview, pick up daughter, head to piano lessons, where she pukes all over me. Ugh!

    I didn't feel really balanced or present.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Gina on 28th August 2008

  • I think we would be better served to stop looking at life from a balance perspective anyway. It's not that balance is unacheivable, it's just not always realistic.

    Sometimes we have to bring work home with us. Sometimes we have to leave work early to take care of our families or ourselves. It's all about your perspective in dealing with issues that arise.

    Life doesn't always equal out exactly as a scale would. I think it teaches your children a much more valuable lesson if they see you rolling with the punches life throws at you in a healthy way than obsessing about whether or not you've balanced the scales perfectly.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kelly O on 9th June 2008

  • I disagree with the outlook of this article on certain points:

    "Work-life balance" isn't just a women's issue or something designed to make women feel inadequate. Everyone that works needs to have "balance" between their professional and private life. Today's fathers are expected to be fully present, not just wage earning absentees. They are expected to participate in the lives of their children. Men in my office cut out early for doctor visits and school plays just as much as the women do.

    The author seems to interpret the phrase "work-life balance" as something unachievable and so illusive that people end up being pulled in so many directions - a person tries to "do it all" and ends up doing things poorly.

    This is in direct opposition to my interpretation of "work-life balance. My interpretation is actually along the lines of the author's comments about being 100% present at work and 100% present at home or in your personal life. (This is a great concept!) That is precisely what work-life balance means to me.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Uhura on 15th January 2008

  • I think work/life balance is ABSOLUTELY achievable! The key ingredient is that your career and your personal life have to be exciting to you. If either one of those is disappointing, unfullfilling, stressful or somehow not working for you, there is no way you can feel balanced. I completely loved your comment about being 100% present and couldn't agree more. When you are at work, be focused on work. When you are at home, be focused on that. There are obviously going to be times when one area of life creeps into the other but being focused on where you are when you are there is SO important! It is a sanity saver, really!! :)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by KathyHowe on 15th November 2007

  • This was tough for me to read. I bring home work every night and weekend; I'm a teacher. It's impossible to finish everything during the school day.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Daisy on 15th November 2007

  • This is a great perspective on the whole "balance" question, Carla - and a good thing to think about when feeling spread too thin. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 12th November 2007