Recently, I’ve read several articles about the importance of work/life balance. Articles around how to make sure your stress level is low, make sure to get enough sleep, blah, blah, blah, and how all of these things are important, especially to women.
Let’s be real — no one, regardless of gender, has work/life balance. And, the thought is really annoying to me as a woman in particular. First, the definition of balance is “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” So, in order to have “balance,” both your work and personal life have to be equal, and we all know that’s not ever the case.
While I strive for the balance, I’ve come to realize it’s not possible, and it’s not because of my work or life commitments or because I am a woman. For me, work is a part of my life — it’s what has and still is a big part of who I am to my co-workers, as well as my friends and family. Much of my life has been shaped and defined by my work. I met my husband of now 20 years at work, and we’ve made most of our important decisions based on our work situations/opportunities. Some of my oldest friendships are people I met through or at work. I simply can’t imagine my life without these incredible experiences. My career has given me some of the best times of my life, in addition to some of my greatest accomplishments.
The term work/life balance pits work against life, and these two things are never in balance. It also assumes one is good and one is bad, which I also don’t believe. Regardless if you’re a list person or not (I am a list person), there is always a list or goals for work and life, and when one list gets shorter, the other is always getting longer and visa versa.
As a leader within the agency, I manage a team of millennials, and I see them striving for this balance every day. Sometimes I sit back and just smile as I see the “work elf” on one shoulder and the “life elf” on the other pulling at them. As their employer, I try to do right by them, by guiding their balance with three basic ground rules: be flexible, provide clarity and maintain accountability. I try to be very clear in what my expectations are and, more importantly, what are my boundaries (meetings that are a must, providing status reports to our clients, etc.). With those rules in place, I try to be flexible in how they meet my expectations. These three basic things I hope allows them to create their own scale for work and life, while making sure it doesn’t pit the two against each other.
My attempt to balance is all about keeping perspective and understanding when it’s time to adjust, but knowing it’s not ever going to be even is perfectly fine with me.