Work Life Balance Can You Achieve It?

Posted: Monday August 21 2017

By: Abbie Coleman

How I achieve a work/life balance …

By Diane Hall

Work life balance is it achievable? I’ve been pondering deeply what that phrase actually means to me, stemming from my guilt at putting my family first for a few weeks recently. Did I do the right thing? Was it an easier decision because I’m self-employed than if I was back with my employer? And do men have the same considerations; would they have felt the same worry in my position?

Here are my conclusions:

Despite our age of equality (which I’m all for, by the way), there will always be differences between men and women. We may strive to be as strong, as intellectual, and as ambitious as our male counterparts, but as we toil to be equal on every count, the wiring of our minds betrays us in one department. We’re often victims of constant worry and/or guilt.

Most men don’t obsess over tiny details, or care as deeply about how they come across to others; women can get that caught up with minor issues that they overshadow the ‘big stuff’.

Having a good work/life balance as a man often means enjoying a successful career whilst being the stronghold of the family – perhaps even squeezing in the odd round of golf for good measure. For a woman, a good work/life balance can mean striving to prove she’s merely competent in the workplace, against glass ceilings and prejudices she may face – whilst also ensuring her offspring are well-rounded and thriving, the house doesn’t look like a bomb-site, and everyone gets fed and watered. That she has time to run a comb through her hair isn’t always guaranteed.

And when it’s bedtime, though the rest of the house visits the Land of Nod, it’s not necessarily the case for women….our minds can whirr away until the early hours, often preoccupied with things we can do little about.

How do we switch off?

Exactly how easy is it to achieve a work/life balance?

This last month, I chose to ‘put family first’. Though, on the face of things, that may sound an easy choice, the guilt that I wasn’t pushing myself in all areas of my life, and the ramifications of such, weighed heavily. Of course, the decision was a no-brainer, as my family situation demanded my time and attention…but as I cancelled everything with clients, I did feel guilt over whether I was doing the right thing.

*The common assumption, when someone leaves employment to work for themselves, is the freedom you’re bound to enjoy. You can work from your local Starbucks, should you wish. You’re free to shut your laptop down and take a walk, pick the kids up, be there for dentist/doctor appointments, for example. But the truth is, you can feel more tied than ever. Take a few hours off to see to family and you’ve got to make it up somewhere, often in the evening when the babes are in bed. Have a (very) well-deserved holiday, and no one does your work whilst you’re away – you’ve to double your efforts on your return. And I guarantee you won’t spend an hour at the kettle talking about last night’s TV if you work for yourself.

If it’s true, that women subconsciously find things to worry or feel guilty about, then it doesn’t matter if I’m employed or self-employed…stress will find me.

For me, work/life balance isn’t about my self-employment stature, freedom, productivity – or chasing an equilibrium with the hours I work, rest and play.

The work/life balance exists within me. It only asks that I’m fulfilled.

Let me explore that thought. I get up on a morning to go to my desk – which is in my beautiful conservatory, looking over my lovely garden – and spend the majority of my working hours doing something I love almost as much as my family. I’m chasing (and almost catching) my dream, and getting paid to do something I’d be quite happy to do for free. I know that, when I’m worrying about work, it’s not through a fear I may fail, it’s because I care so much that I succeed. It may take more confidence and bloody-mindedness to go it alone, but the rewards….wow. Fulfilled? I’d say so.

If I’m programmed to worry, so be it. Working for myself may give me more to fret about and no less guilt, but it’s worth it. And I may, as a woman, focus unnecessarily on the nitty-gritty, but it allows me to embrace and understand things at a much deeper level.

I don’t see that I’m ‘putting my family first’ if I drop back a bit with work, I’m simply responding to an area of my life that needs me more at this point – it’s not an either/or situation. Things will shift back, and my family will be just as understanding if the seesaw dips in the other direction and work occupies more of my attention; they won’t cease to exist.

I’ve got to work, because it’s a part of me. And I love my family. They’re not two things to balance against each other, they’re important elements – among many others – that, side by side, make up my whole life.