Does Work-Life Balance Exist?

by Melanie Edwards on March 3, 2010 · 11 comments

in Wahm, Work, Working Mothers

Have you been thinking about what work-life balance means to you? Or even just balance in and of itself? Well, there are some people who think there is no such thing. The phrase work-life balance alone is contradictory in their eyes.

I recently came across The myth of work/life balance, in which the author proposes changing the term work-life balance to “work-life compro-balance.” Her thinking is that compromises always have to be made when you’re trying to achieve balance. So, by changing the name, you get more realistic expectations of your goals and it allows “…you the opportunity to forgive yourself if you don’t get everything done in the day.

The second part of her post actually provides very practical advice. She suggests that you look at the big-picture and evaluate all aspects of your life, separating the things you have to do from those you want to do. Assign percentages to each item based on your available time, realizing of course that there are only a set number of hours available each week. This will allow you to see your time as a whole and as she says, you will “… have an understanding of why you aren’t able to fit certain things in your life, thus reducing guilt and the feeling of pressure.”

Do you agree with her opinion that work-life balance doesn’t exist?

I, personally, can understand her reasoning. But, I feel that if you define balance to fit your needs and lifestyle, then you will be able to have work-life balance in your life since you’ll be striving for your own personalized definition and goals. Whatever you feel provides you with a feeling of balance when juggling work, life, and family, then that is what you will work towards each day.

Weigh in with your opinion in the comments below. Work-life balance or work-life compro-balance?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

chrysulawinegar March 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Work life balance is the lingua franca. It's all about semiotics – what symbols YOU attach to the words. It's certainly not a perfect term. But if people spent as much time living it as they did coming up with new terms for it, perhaps we'd be further ahead.

There is some truth to the fact that business leaders have a great big “yawn” and switch off when they hear the term. But I am not sure that's a labeling issue, although I respect many of the commentators who make that case. I think those guys are pretty hide-bound regardless of the verbiage. As for work-life compro-balance. Uh-huh. Yeah really, that's gonna light up a management buy-in like nothing else I've heard. Please.

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modernmami March 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

That's why I think it's all up to how *you* define balance for yourself. As you said, it's about what symbols you attach to the words. And of course, neither is a perfect term and management will not buy-in to one any more than the other.

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jeannemale March 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Work-life balance is possible. It isn't about spending equal amounts of time but rather about clarity around what is important to us. It's also about saying no to what we don't need (to buy) and also to what we don't want (to do). When my daughter was young and I was climbing the corporate ladder I had no work/life balance at all. I think I have finally achieved a pretty good balance but it's only because I have worked for myself for the past 13 years. I am far from the poster-person for balance because I may spend some days working long hours to meet a client deadline but other weekdays attending to family or household needs or even an occasional trip to the spa. For me the balance is in spending my time in a way that serves my family and clients without doing a disservice to myself…but that doesn't mean that my boss isn't a slave-driver.

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modernmami March 10, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I think you have described it perfectly. It's great to hear the different ideas of what balance means to everyone!

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spanglishbaby March 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I have to go with the Compro Balance idea. It is constantly a dance of compromises and finding a balance within that. It´s also important to be clear on what your priorities at each moment are and just how much you can honestly handle so you don´t feel miserable when things just don´t go as planned. Usually, they just don´t!

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modernmami March 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm

It's true that there are always compromises when trying to do many things at once. And priorities are super important. That's what I think balance is about. Because what's important to you may not be to me and we might both feel balanced.

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ACarlson March 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I think that work life balance does exist or at least it can. It's really all about setting your own personal boundaries and learning when to say no. I think so much of the time people are just so busy with the daily grind, they don't take the time to even really think what that balance means to them. I am part of a mother's personal renewal group in which we spent some time focusing/identifying top life priorities and learning to say no when requests take away from those life prioirities. You should check out the book http://www.reneetrudeau.com . The author has some great exercises that have really helped me.

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modernmami March 10, 2010 at 11:50 am

I think you're right. Many times we're rushing from one thing to another, that we don't even know if we really *want* to do them and if they are necessary for our balance. Or like you said, we don't even know what it will take for us to feel balanced. I'll check out the book. Thanks!

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Kendra May 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I agree with some of the posts that the word 'balance' provides an equal equilibrium, like a perfectly balanced scale. Based on that, I don't think anyone can achieve a work life balance as there are either going to be things happening on the home front or work front that tip the scale in either direction a bit more. But if we expand our thinking to get our lives, many of which are way overbalanced to one side, usually work, to be closer to that midpoint, then I think it's possible. While many people don't think the idea is realistic because we don't feel we have much control over jobs these days, there are steps we can take. I don't have the money for a life coach, but Julie Cohen is a one I can work with through her book. http://www.7keystoworklifebalance.com/about
As a coach, she has worked with clients struggling with this issue and turned her successes into the book “Your Work, Your Life…Your Way.” She admits that it is a journey, there isn't a point where you reach work-life balance and then all you have to do is maintain it. She says it's more about achieve moments or days of balance. If you define it as she does, then it doesn't seem like a myth.

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modernmami May 16, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I think that is more in-tune with what I try to do. I have days that I feel balanced because I accomplished things from all aspects of my life. Thanks for the link…will check it out.

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modernmami May 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I think that is more in-tune with what I try to do. I have days that I feel balanced because I accomplished things from all aspects of my life. Thanks for the link…will check it out.

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