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 to which all business women aspire?
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. Balance brings forth the image of a scale, and implies that true balance is achieved when both sides of the scale have equal amounts of weight on them.
It implies a 50-50 split, with “professional life” on one side and “personal 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. 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. And its not a problem until she tries to devote equal time to both.
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 you could become the master of how you integrate your 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 you permission to be okay with the choices you make?
What if that means creating a personalized, customized vision of how you want to integrate the various elements of your life and the roles you play, including work?
True integration requires solid reflection on your life and aspirations according to your own personal life vision. It means creating a unique “fit” based upon your unique professional and personal circumstances and choices.
And just exactly how do you achieve that?
First, you must define what it is you want. You must consider the realities of your job, your family obligations, your support systems, and then redefine success for yourself so you feel positive about the choices you make.
Secondly, you need to stop being your 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 (both of which can also create balance issues).
Lastly, you need to stop trying to achieve the unrealistic balance of “having it all”. Living your choices means defining who you are, what you want, and then making it happen in a way that works for you.
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!