The new work/life balance may not be about “balance” after all

Honestly, I just about fell on the floor when my husband shared with me – a few years ago now – that he was feeling a little “stressed” when he had to pick up our daughter on his way home from work.

Every Thursday, for a period of maybe 10 weeks when our daughter was 6, my husband would pick her up from gymnastics on his way home from work. (As a side note, the fact he was riding his bike and would have the child bike carrier attached to the back so he could get his workout in at the same time did complicate things, but – to be clear – this didn’t make me feel any more sympathetic.)

I think I was honestly so shocked that he voiced this, that I didn’t say a word.

Why? Because I was dumbfounded.

I had accepted this as a part of my everyday life.

Picking up kids. Getting reasonably healthy food on the table with somewhat regularity. Fitting in media calls on my cell phone while picking up my daughter from school. Hiring students to pack media kits on the floor of my office while my children watched TV downstairs.

These were the juggles of my life as an independent PR consultant, working from home.

This was all in the name of my achieving some kind of work/life balance that served others, but did not really serve myself.

Michelle Obama, in her runaway bestseller Becoming shares this period of time so eloquently:

“…if a meeting went late, I’d end up tearing home at breakneck speed to fetch Malia so that we could arrive on time (Malia eager and happy, me sweaty and hyperventilating) to the afternoon Wiggleworms class…”

This was my daily existence, as I ran my PR consultancy from a room in my house while also being head caregiver at home.

Fast forward to today and the more enlightened world we all seem to live in.

Have you noticed that the word “balance” now has become a hot button topic that often evokes an exasperated annoyance or even anger at the thought of being able to achieve the working woman’s Nirvana of work/life balance?

While I raised my young children in a period where I thought it might be possible to do all things all the time, I’d like to think the young mothers of today are letting things ride a little more, or at least are making clearer choices.

It seems the topic of work/life balance is often met with disdain at the idea that an individual could actually achieve such a thing.Click To Tweet

“I don’t believe in work/life balance” says one.

“I don’t believe you can have it all,” says another.

“Work life balance is bogus – it’s not possible,” says another.

Meanwhile, I continue on with my mission to achieve the perfect work/life balance for me, because I know it is possible.

I believe work/life balance is possible.Click To Tweet

Which leads me to wonder what people think work/life balance really is?

It’s as though they’re conjuring up some image of a yogi on a beach somewhere tropical – a life filled with unfettered harmony and idyllic days; a life where working from home is akin to a content sense of enjoying a Sunday afternoon garden party, with birds chirping in the background.

Or does balance simply mean the opposite of spending a crazy busy day at work, navigating rush hour traffic, grabbing your kids in time to get to them to their activity of the day while throwing some fast food at them before spending the evening at the rink/dance studio/insert activity here?

What does balance really mean?

The question is, what does the word balance mean to you?

One dictionary definition describes the word as “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright.”

Another describes it as “to keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.”

And while balance in a mathematical world may sometimes mean to be equal, from a life perspective, I don’t think anyone is talking about 100% equal distribution of parts when it comes to your life or your career.

What does the word balance mean to you?Click To Tweet

With another International Women’s Day in the books, my social media was filled with women rising up, rising strong and being all they can be – and don’t think for one minute that you have to choose success over an  overused word like “balance.” Being successful doesn’t mean you can’t have a satisfying personal life.

These words are all loaded with nuance and meaning.

So, if it is possible to “have it all” – even at the same time, and;

it is possible to achieve a balance in our lives that leaves us feeling fulfilled and satisfied, and;

it is possible to have time for everything that’s most important to you, and;

you aren’t feeling balanced, what is out of balance?

What is it that you’re not doing that you wish you were? And perhaps the bigger question is, why aren’t you doing it?Click To Tweet

What are you choosing instead of “the thing” that’s leaving you feeling out of balance and unhappy?

And if you are purposefully choosing to spend your time in an area that isn’t currently giving you joy – to use a Marie Kondo-ism – what is it giving you and is it worth the trade-off?

You may find you’re “in balance,” after all.

If the topic of balance intrigues you and you’d like to dig into what the perfect picture of balance could look like for you, check out this webinar I recorded a couple of years ago: The Personal Balance Equation.  It comes with a workbook where you can figure out your perfect balance equation for your life.

With any luck, it may be just within your reach.

To your successful – and balanced – life,

Susan Elford

Personal Balance Equation Workbook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a PR Strategist & Leadership Coach who especially loves to work with people who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a balanced life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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