Work-life balance is the new buzz word among professionals, especially working women, and specifically working women who are mothers. It’s a special place that exists somewhere over the rainbow where your work demands are in perfect harmony with your domestic responsibilities and, if you’re lucky, hobbies and relationships. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but this place doesn’t exist. At least not for me. And I’m pretty sure other working moms will agree with me. In fact, I recently read a great article by the Australian “The Happy Family Lawyer” Clarissa Rayward. She writes:
“Once I had my daughter, London, I knew something had to change as I simply could not work those long hours at my office the way I had before. So it was time for a new schedule- I tried working ‘part-time’ taking Wednesdays off, I would be at home, rather than at my office and I would tell myself that with discipline I would find a way to create that ‘balance’.
But this time it really didn’t work. The more I tried to distance myself from my work the more stressed I became. Rather than enjoying my Wednesdays at home, they became a day I dreaded- not because I didn’t enjoy my time at home, but instead because the minute my ‘home day’ was interrupted by some sort of work task I immediately felt a sense of failure- I was unable to achieve the ‘balance’ that I thought was necessary.
By compartmentalising my ‘work life’ from my ‘home life’ I thought I was creating a structure that would lead to comfort and balance but the silly thing was, the more structure I tried to put in place to relieve my stress, the more stressed I felt when it just didn’t work!”
I can relate. My poor father (and boss) has put up with a lot since I’ve gone back to work. I’ve been from full-time, to part-time, to work-from-home on Mondays and Fridays, back to full-time, to…I’M RETIRING AND NEVER COMING BACK, to I’m coming back please forget what I said yesterday. All in the name of finding this elusive work-life balance. While I am lucky enough to have this flexibility, I still find this balance hard to achieve.
“There is something about the word ‘balance’ that implies evenness or a sense of equality. When I think of balance, I picture a tight rope walker with a long pole, teetering along a rope, forever trying to ensure that their weight is centered so they don’t topple off.
The notion of ‘balance’ is ideal when we are trying to create order and evenness but it does not work when it comes to our daily lives. Our lives are dynamic- forever pulling us in different directions where every day and every moment is different. Some days are easy, others are fast and some days are just upside down.”
I don’t know that there’s a solution. At least for me, not having a schedule or expectations of how each day will go is working for now. Some days I wake up at 5 am to write a blog post before the baby wakes up. Sometimes I do legal work after dinner so I can take Tripp to his doctor’s appointment the day. Some days I am at the office for 9 hours, don’t go to the gym or cook dinner or give my son a bath. But the next day I try to take some time for things that make me happy. It’s all a work in progress.
And giving up the idea that I need to find a way to make my days perfectly balanced (gym, blog, spending time with Tripp, cooking, spending time with Dave, billing enough hours so I don’t get fired) gives me tremendous feeling of relief – even if every day isn’t “perfect.”