“Do you have a healthy work/life balance?”
That question has been asked to me time and time again since I joined the Army. Generally it elicited a blank stare, or a quick “ya sure I do”. But do I really? A quick Google search for the term “Work Life Balance” recently brought up 156 million hits. There is a plethora of information scattered across the digital universe. There are seasoned clinical psychologists, family and marriage counselors, corporate human resource specialists, all the way to high school students who are publishing their senior thesis paper. All of these people have various levels of experience and input on this topic; some personal, some professional. But they all agree on one thing…You need to have a healthy work/life balance.
What exactly does that mean though? How do I balance them? What is work? What is life? The term “work” can vary greatly across the demographics of parents. A stay at home mom or dad, for example works just as much as the parent who gets in a car/bus/mass transit and commutes to a physical job location. Some may even argue that those SAHM/SAHD may even “work” more, since staying at home, doesn’t necessarily mean unemployed. I’m not here to spark a debate or any controversy on who works harder, but rather to point out the varying degrees of the terms work and life, and the difficulties in balancing them out. I know several parents who have full time, salaried positions that allow them to stay at home, and work. Combine these jobs with preparing lunches, changing diapers, shuttling kids to sports practice, dance recitals, etc, and those SAHM/SAHD are working 14 hour days. On top “spending time with family” Then there are the traditional, full time, commute-to-work, 40+ hours a week parents. Growing up in New York, I learned at a young age that a lot of these people work in NYC, and commute an hour or more each way. You figure a 8 hour day at best, plus 2+ hours of commuting, then adding on their roles as parents, and those hours stack up quickly as well. With all this working being done, when does one live their life? With these smartphones connected to work e-mails, do we ever really let work go and just enjoy life? “Life” too, carries different meanings. To some, life may mean being completely detached from anything related to employment. Cell phones off, emails not forwarded…just alone time with family. My “life” is not worrying about anything work related. Not having to field e-mails and phone calls. Not providing solutions to problems, or worrying about what problems may come the next day. Beyond that, however, is the ability to get away from work. The ability to tell your boss that you want time off for something other than a funeral, or family emergency, but rather just to enjoy time with family.
Before I graduated college, and then became a parent, I was under the delusional impression that “work” existed M-Fri, 9AM-5PM, and your “life” was the rest of the time…easy to balance. Holy crap was I wrong. Since I graduated college and started my time in the Army, I’ve been an epic failure at the balancing act, and that was BEFORE I had my daughter. Now, what was once precious time with my wife, has become feeding time, laundry time, play time, cleaning time, reading time, bath time, all around baby time. My problem is I tend to bring my work home, not necessarily physically, but emotionally. So that time with my wife and daughter, often still carries the stressful undertones of work, and blocks the enjoyment of being home with my family. This leads to stress and arguments, which means less enjoyable family time, which means aggravated me at work, thus producing poor quality work and drawing the wrath of superiors. In turn, an even more irritated me comes home the following day and the vicious cycle continues.
This brings me back to my original question. Do you have a healthy work/life balance? Do you even discern between work and “life”? Do you cut back on work to enjoy your life, or do you make your sacrifices at home, to help ensure success at work? Is there really a right or wrong answer here? I know I never did, and still haven’t figured this one out. I struggle with it on a daily basis, and I’ve learned that, at least for me, if I don’t come to a balanced solution soon, both my work and my life will suffer. Then there will be no winner in my game of life. Feel free to comment below with any experience and advice you have on this subject.