Do you believe that it is possible to strike a happy work life balance? The Web is rich with advice and smart tips all designed to help us figure out how to find the wonderful equilibrium in our life that promises to take all the beat-the-clock rushing and anxiety away. That balanced center that allows us to be mindfully “present” at work and home. After 25+ years of juggling and trying all sorts of strategies, I’ve discovered that there really is no perfect balance “bulls-eye” that can assure our success and happiness. We often find that across all those good days when every important work deadline was met and all home priorities were neatly tucked away, we are still searching for something. Like there is something more important we wanted to have than a 50/50 balance.
Friends, achieving balance is not what we should ultimately strive for. Instead, try to concentrate on the feeling or state of mind that you want to have as you live through your decisions and choices. Let me unpack this concept a little with a personal story. My daughter’s school was putting on a new show that she was really excited about. She loves dance and her part was to do a challenging “kick line” number with her friends. For weeks she practiced and as she did, I pulled up a chair to compliment her progress and cheer. Finally, the school officially announced the show dates. I was very excited about ordering tickets and after visiting the website, my heart did a nose dive and sank. The show days all fell on the same week I would be travelling for work. No negotiating this one. I was a key presenter at the meeting and had to be there. Classic example of what working moms encounter all the time. The stars usually don’t align the way we want them to. Despite our super human determination, we simply can’t be at two places at the same time. I explained the situation to my daughter and she told me not a worry about it, she understood completely. The love and support of my husband and sisters assured me that all would be fine. They would all be there to take care of shooting the video and taking pictures. On the surface, nothing was wrong. The bases were covered. Balance wasn’t an issue and everyone was happy.
Except for me.
I had to do something to try and make this work. After a little brainstorming, I called the school (yes the thought to ask them to change the show date did cross my mind!) and explained the situation. “Why don’t you come for the dress rehearsal?” Yes the dress rehearsal! It fell on a date that was clear. I found my smile and couldn’t wait to tell my daughter that I would see the whole show start to finish at the rehearsal practice. Though this plan wasn’t perfect, it made me feel so much better. On rehearsal day, there was only one lady sitting in the bleachers for a good long while…Me! I clapped after every number and when my daughter’s turn finally came, I cherished every second of cheering her on. She was also very happy to know that somehow mom found a way to get there and be part of something that was important to her.
So when it comes to work life balance, don’t focus on trying to do it all. Instead, zero in on how you want to feel after you make work life choices. Know your limits and think about how your decisions will leave you feeling after you’ve made them. I was lucky to have found an alternative. But I knew in my heart that I would have to bow out of the meeting if it really came to it. The feeling of missing the event was too hard. Managing career and home this way will mean some things will fall second to other more important priorities. Some things may not happen at all. The key is that you are not striving to achieve balance per se, but making good choices by paying attention to how you feel and want to feel at the end of that particular journey.