I am a busy mom of two who works outside the home. Like many of you, I am aware of the unique chaos that comes with the territory. Figuring out how to manage marriage, family, work, house, parenting, and life is something that is constantly on my mind. So when I say that I’ve given up on work-life balance; it’s not because I don’t understand why there is so much conversation about it. But it’s just something that doesn’t work for me. Here are my 3 main reasons why.
1. It is unrealistic.
Each new season of parenting comes with its own unique set of ups and downs. In the newborn phase, I adored the cuddliness of such a little one but breastfeeding and sleep deprivation were so much harder than anyone could have prepared me for. I loved my talkative and adventurous toddler but I felt like I could never sit down because I was constantly trying to keep him from eating electrical cords or pulling furniture on himself. Later, finding the right preschool, entering elementary school, learning how to have more than one child all created new opportunities for tons of joy and also accompanying challenges. Any sense of “balance” I felt evaporated as quickly as I noticed it. I once heard someone once say that the hardest season of parenting is the one that you are in. Our kids change at such a rapid rate that there is no system of balance that ever really lasts. Work-life balance never felt realistic because things were so much more dynamic than that.
2. It’s not just a women’s issue.
9 times out of 10, work-life balance is thought of, discussed, and relegated to something that women need only think about. But I have good friends who are dads that have told me, “I don’t want to take a job with too much travel in it because I like being home to coach my kid’s soccer team.” Men also want to be involved parents. And the issues surrounding what goes into creating a healthy workplace definitely impact men just as much as women. However, it can be easy to slip into unconscious paradigms that the house and kids are solely a mother’s job to manage and sort through. Making work and family work together is something that matters to women and men.
3. It doesn’t help ask the right questions.
Maybe my biggest problem with the concept of work-life balance is that it is puts the wrong question at the forefront. Work-life balance asks you to figure out what is doable, practical, or the organized way of doing things. As someone who loves to plan ahead, I can certainly see how there is merit to this. But, what about the space for our passions and dreams? The biggest question that a lot of working parents need to answer is not what is the organized way to make things fit in our lives but rather what are we most passionate about and how to design our lives around those values and experiences that will matter most to us in the end. We could ask – what is a balanced way of doing things? Or we can ask what am I most passionate about and how do I do more of that?
For example, did you hear about the couple that decided to sell their home and take their 4 kids on the road in an RV to travel across the United States? That’s not very balanced. But when you hear them describe why they’ve decided to do this, it fits with their most important goals and values for themselves and their children. I love the audacious spirit that this couple has because in the end, what’s the point of balance anyway?
Any parent will tell you that life with kids is amazing, beautiful, crazy, and constantly changing. Most of us aren’t craving balance per se as much as we desire lives that are helping us thrive and be about what matters most to us. I, for one, think that leaving behind a work-life balance mindset will set us up better to do that. Who’s with me?