A comment said by my kids quite often is, “You work too much,” or “Why do you have to always work.” Often the comment is made with a bit of a snarly tone, and for the hundredth time an explanation is needed sharing the difference between going to work and working from home. Of course, it appears that all one does is work when we don’t actually get up and go to a building to do our jobs. I get that.
Today, my recent college grad came home and made that same blanket statement in regard to working too much. And because I was so busy, she got a rather curt, abrupt answer in response. While I had back-to-back Zoom calls with clients, I was able to have a text conversation with her in regard to work-life balance.
In essence, her opinion is that there should be a balance between work, life and fun. In mine, life is life and sometimes there is more of one than the other, and sometimes even the most well-laid out plans get interrupted.
In the spirit of sharing both sides, I am sharing our conversation in which we both try to communicate our points to the other. My first question to her was, “What should I write about this week?”
Haley: “Working too much.”
Me: “Funny, but I’m serious.”
Haley: “Balancing work, life and fun.”
Me: “There is no balance. Life is life, and sometimes stuff happens.”
Haley: “Then that’s your problem. I doubt others feel the same way.”
Me: “Lots of people I know think that way.”
Haley: “Maybe it’s a generational thing.”
I wasn’t sure if I should ask at this point if she is calling me old or if she thinks her generation is lazy. Instead, I asked, “So, if someone was having a heart attack at the end of your shift and you were supposed to go canoeing, would you rush out at the end of your shift and let someone else take over or would you see the episode through?”
Haley: “No, I would not leave, that is negligence.”
And right there, she made my point. Our days can be planned out to the hour and our calendars can be color coded down to the minute and meticulously kept up, but still, we have interruptions. If people were able to simply handle life in all aspects, they would not have to deal so much with anxiety and disappointment because these issues would be met in stride, handled, and then moved on from.
Her last comment before we set our differences in opinion aside was, “Yes, but if you are not at work, then do not think about work. Do other things rather than constantly be working. Work should stay at work, otherwise what is the purpose in life if working is all you do?”
This is easily understood but not easily done. This is where the work–life balance should perhaps change to work–life integration. This saying is gaining popularity and gaining wide acceptance.
Jae Ellard, founder of Simple Intentions, shares, “It doesn’t matter what we call ‘work-life balance’ because there is no such thing. Call it work-life harmony, integration, flexibility, flow, work-life fill-in-the-blank.”
The word balance really implies equal distribution of parts, just like kids on a teeter totter. If there aren’t equal weights, one goes up while the other goes down. Just like life – sometimes there is more work and sometimes there is more play or down time. There are no balancing or equal parts whatsoever. Seek integration and seek acceptance that each category in life will some days outweigh the other. Flexibility is the key to outrunning anxiety and disappointment due to expecting a perfect balancing act.
Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.