What’s wrong with the expression “creating work/life balance”?
What’s wrong with the plethora of articles out there that focus on “balance” as the nirvana all business women should be aspiring to?
Ack! Where do I start?
Despite being used by some well-meaning and intelligent coaches, the term “work/life balance” actually does women more harm than good because balance brings forth the image of a scale, and implies that true balance is achieved when both sides of the scale have even amounts of weight on them.
It implies a 50-50 split, with “career” on one side and “life” on the other, and most of us know that achieving exact balance between the two rarely if ever happens.
The fact is no two business women have the same priorities. So why are there so many cookie-cutter “work/life balance” tips out there that fall flat? The only thing they succeed in doing is making working women with family obligations feel stressed out and guilty.
One of the reasons these “tips” don’t work is that “balance” doesn’t reflect reality. A 50-50 split or “having it all” isn’t possible. Now before anyone decides they want to tar and feather me – I’ve been a feminist since the early 1970s, so give me a break, okay?
The truth is, depending on the transitions a woman experiences at given times in her life, more time and energy will be focused on her career and other times, her personal life. That’s just the way life roles.
Regardless of a rather common misperception, not all women will choose to handle career and life integration in the same way. Personal values, support systems, experiences, role specifics and a number of other elements influence what makes the best choice for any given woman leader.
It’s all about the integration, darling.
What if a woman could become a master of how she integrates her career and personal life in a way that didn’t create resentment, guilt, stress, obligation or unreal expectations?
What if creating work+life fit is all about giving a woman permission to be okay with the choices she makes?
What if that means creating a personalized, customized vision of how she wants to integrate the various elements of her life and the roles she plays, including work?
True integration requires solid reflection on her life and aspirations according to her own personal life vision. It means creating a unique “fit” based upon her unique professional and personal circumstances and choices.
And just exactly how does a woman achieve that?
First, she must define what it is she wants. She must consider the realities of her job, her family obligations, her support systems, and then redefine success for herself so she feels positive about the choices she makes.
Secondly, she needs to stop being her own worst enemy. For example, some women executives with young children or elderly parents they’re taking care of put more pressure on themselves to be in the office, to have more face time than perhaps the company requires. The pressure in this instance is internal, and the unreal expectations are coming from the woman herself rather than her boss or the company hierarchy.
Lastly, she needs to stop trying to achieve the unrealistic balance of “having it all.” Living her choices means defining who she is, what she wants, and then making it happen in a way that works for her.
What else contributes to a healthy work+life fit?
Love what you do.
Don’t let life happen to you – make your own choices whenever possible.
Don’t feel guilty about making time for your family.
Don’t neglect yourself in the process.
Recalibrate daily – be open and flexible and willing to realign your priorities depending on the circumstances.
Keep open to learning, and don’t forget your sense of humor. It’s a powerful ally!