Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Fallacy of a Work/Life Balance

Your definition of "work/life" balance is probably different than mine.  In fact my definition of today is different than my definition of 4 years ago.  Depending where we are in our lives and career, this means different things to different people.

5 years ago I didn't have any kids.  I was earning good money, and I had savings.  Back then I wanted flexibility and time off to travel.  I had no issues coming in at 7 am and working until 4 pm.  If there was an event at night, I had no issues staying late.  My manager knew that I worked hard and was seeing results, so he allowed me the flexibility that I craved.

Today, I have a 2.5 year old.  I changed jobs - effectively lowering my income - so that I would have stability.  I traded in flexibility for security as this is what's important to me now.  Starting early or staying late need to be planned in advance because I now have to coordinate with day care and my husband.

I bring all this up because I chuckle when I see in a job posting or company website "we offer great work/life balance".  It makes me wonder "according to who?"  In my office, we're all in different stages of our lives and therefore all want/need different things in terms of balance.  1 person may want flexibility to take a course or to write an exam, another may need flexible hours to accommodate their children's schedules, and another may be completely flexible to anything.

And even though I have changed jobs (and careers) I don't necessarily feel that I have achieved "balance".  Most days we don't eat dinner until 6 pm, and by the time my son is done eating it's closer to 7:30 pm, and that means that we have very little time together before he goes to bed.  And after he's in bed there are still all of the household tasks to attend to.  Plus we need to shower before collapsing on the sofa for a little grown up time (which usually means watching 1 hour of t.v. that's not a kid show).

Weekends are just as busy.  There is always work to be done (groceries, laundry, house/yard work, etc) and time is short.  We all need time to decompress from the week, and time together as a family, and 2 days is just too short.

If I was asked if I have achieved "balance" my answer is "no".  On one hand, we make it work, but on the other hand we aren't as efficient as we could be.

I would be grateful if the term "work/life balance" would disappear.  There is no concrete way to define it after all.

No comments: