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The Myth of Work/Life Balance

We’re two months into our New Year, and I’m still wading through the explosion of email. Does your inbox resemble like mine? I swear every mailing list I’ve ever breathed on sent me a link or article touting their path to achieving that new and wonderful catch phrase "work/life balance".

Some were willing to share the secret for free, but most wanted to sell a webinar, seminar, or other type of ar along with the guarantee this would wave a magic wand and line all those little work/life ducks in a row.

Tempting. Darn tempting.

The deluge reminded me of this commercial from way back when:

Anyone else remember trying to "have it all"? (Air quotes are so satisfying. What did we do without them?). Did any of us ever manage to achieve fabled superwoman status with our education, career, home life, and twenty-four inch waist? Or did all we end up with was an erratic sleeping pattern and a healthy dose of skepticism toward promises like these?

The problem with and the appeal to pitches for work/life balance are simple: We want to believe. We’re not even looking for the magic wand, but man are we suckers for the promise of a halfway decent process.

It’s the word balance in all this clamor which usually gives pause. Mainly because we can then travel a path to fairness. And, if applied to a relate-able situation, it’s like trying to be fair to the kids come Christmas time.

Sure, we might think we’ll spend a set amount on gifts, but what Kid A wants one hugely expensive gift, and Kid B prefers a bunch of less pricey items? Will the wrapped results look fair or balanced under the tree? The truth is each child has different needs to respect and account for. Isn’t the concept similar for the varied areas of our lives?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, there’s going to be periods where our focus must flex. Maybe we work full-time and take night classes instead partying with our friends. Maybe our career takes a back seat to raising a family. Or perhaps we cancel our retirement travel plans to care for our elderly parents.

On a smaller scale it’s guaranteed the day of a big work presentation is when stomach flu tears through our family. Our church group schedules an outreach the same weekend as the 5k race we signed up for last month, and that editorial deadline isn’t taking our dental surgery into consideration.

Not a single process, system, or workshop in our inbox allows for any of those unexpected items, because there’s a bigger picture here. One that proves the balance everyone keeps urging us to achieve isn’t a day-to-day, hour-by-hour, project-by-project seesaw.

It’s life. Imperfect. Unbalanced. And it’s okay. Because once we stop teetering on a high wire strung between demands we’re freed from trying to meet our own impossible expectations. Maybe all those little ducks aren’t in a row, but don’t you feel better?