The truth is, there is no such thing as work-life balance unless your work, and your life, make very few important-to-you demands on your time and attention. We continuously make choices, juggle options, prioritize. In the end, we do the best we can and move on, ideally applying lessons learned and forgiving ourselves for our retrospective errors.
When I worked full-time, I always felt like a circus juggler. There were work responsibilities, personal needs, family wants, aging parents, the occasional heath crisis. Once we got one, my DVR was always full of shows I hoped to watch. I regularly tuned out discussions of new movies I hadn’t yet seen. Getting a physician’s or hair appointment at a time good for them and me – a challenge. A traffic tie-up often meant rescheduling; I seldom allowed extra time (who has extra time?) to get anywhere.
Yet I know I was one of the lucky ones. I worked in salaried positions most of my career, which meant I had more choices. I rarely missed a child’s school event, or another must-make appointment. But as a daughter, wife, and mother who worked both in and outside my home, I regularly felt I fell short, feeling that familiar guilt that plagues everyone from time to time, with more needs than time.
Some see balance as a solvable problem. There are literally thousands of articles and billions of words online that purport to help people – especially women – balance their own needs with their family’s and their employers’ or clients’ needs. Most of that advice involves ignoring or delegating some of those needs to others. Duh, like we didn’t already think of that. Or cloning. I often wanted to clone myself so I wouldn’t miss everything I wanted to attend to, myself.
Today things are different. I work part-time on my own schedule, and my child is grown, and my parents are gone. I also have realized something very important: The guilt I often felt at being unable to “do it all” was unavoidable. No one can do it all. Conflicts and choices are inevitable. You can use strategies to maximize your time and flexibility, but in the end, absent a conscious decision to drop your concern for your chosen responsibilities, you make choices and sometimes those choices suck and you have to suck it up.