There’s a lot of talk about work/life balance in our culture. I think it’s a particularly common topic among millennials and moms. When you have a millennial mom … watch out, world! We’ve heard that it’s not possible, or that it IS possible with appropriate compromise. But I struggle with why we crave it to begin with. Let’s pretend that there are three elements we’re trying to ‘balance’ for the sake of conversation: family, work, life (social/friends/hobbies/working out).
If we seek balance in all these areas, we’re effectively saying that we want each element to be equally distributed. This is where I instantly get a little confused. I don’t need to have equal parts working out and drinks with girlfriends to the number of hours I work. For one, I wouldn’t be able to afford anything other than the drinks if I wasn’t working more than I … drank. For two, I don’t have the cardiovascular stamina for that kind of exchange. This alone helps me understand that there’s an economical reason our lives can’t be 100% evenly-weighted ALL THE TIME.
For me, it’s not about balance. It’s about integration. How well do the things I’ve chosen to invest my time into play with one another? Here’s an example of what the craziest level of that integration looks like for my family: My husband directed his first feature film a week before I had my son. When we had Gio, he moved all post production efforts to our home so he could be available when Gio wasn’t sleeping and get right into post production when he was. Meanwhile I continued to run my company without a traditional maternity leave because I loved the mixture of nurturing my old (business) baby with my new (human) baby all the while supporting my husband’s growing (film) baby. There was something energizing about folding everything in together that made me start questioning why we crave balance so much, and why it’s so hard to achieve.
I think we could agree we don’t want 100% balance ALL THE TIME. I think we crave balance because an area that isn’t one of our biggest priorities is being compromised because something less important is taking too much time. And if we’re honest, we hate conflict more than we hate change, so instigating a situation that forces you to set clearer boundaries, say no, or confront the misalignment of values head-on is often not worth it. We’d rather just search for more articles on how to achieve this balance thing than solve the real problem. If you’re in that boat (hello! We’ve all been there), here are some questions to help clarify how to move forward:
1. Do I feel that I’m adding value in all areas or does something need to go so that my contribution to the things that matter to me is equal to the vision I have?
2. Speaking of vision, do I have one? Do I really know what I want?
3. Where do I find the most energy? How can I transfer those characteristics into all areas of my life?
4. Am I trying too hard to compartmentalize all of my priorities when integrating them may simplify my life?
Balance is too hard to nail down. Maybe that’s why it’s so alluring. We tend to want the things we can’t have. But I prefer to chase after what’s not only doable, but provides meaning to my life and the lives of people around me. And since I’m not so much a compartmentalization kind of gal, I choose to integrate it all in one big pot of life and swim in the chaos. You have to decide which is right for you and your family. My hope is that you are able to find exactly what you’re looking for.