Can we really do it all? What I’m learning about work life balance

work life balance, achieving work life balanceCan a career-driven woman manage countless projects, promotions, a department and executives’ expectations and still hold on to her sanity? Can she come home at the end of a 10-hour work day and have the energy to make dinner, clean the kitchen and complete all the other domestic duties that come with wifehood?

The short answer is yes. But not well. As the old saying goes, “Something’s always gotta give.”

I’ve struggled with work life imbalance for the past year. (Some would argue longer.) When I was single, it was easy for my career to fall in the #1 spot of my priorities. Since I’ve also been in school for the past 2 years, my studies easily took the #2 spot. Meanwhile, friends, family and a social life came in last place.

Life is very different when you’re married (or about to be).

Not only do you have different responsibilities now, but you’re also accountable to someone else. It’s not okay to come home hours late without a courtesy call to the significant other. And it’s definitely not okay to come home hours late every day. The days of leaving the office after dark and eating toast for dinner (yes, I did this) are over. Your marriage should be #1 and everything else should fall after that.

Yet, why is this a struggle for me?

Though my relationship is without doubt my #1 love, it doesn’t necessarily get the #1 spot in how my time is divided. Work and school haven’t changed, which is why they still consume most of my time. So what needs to change here is me.

Recently, I’ve attempted to bring some work life balance into my life. I’ve tried to leave the office at a reasonable time, planned dinner on my way home, and put some wholesome food on the table. Then end the evening with some quality R&R time. Some days are easy, but other days the energy is simply not there. By no means have I mastered the art of work life balance. In fact, I still have a ways to go. But so far, here’s what I’ve learned:

The office won’t implode without you.

A wise person once told me, “No one is indispensable. Everyone can be replaced.” That’s the reality of a workplace. I may have tons of responsibilities lying in my court and feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. But if I were to disappear tomorrow, the world would still turn and business would resume as normal.

A good way to start building work life balance is to stop thinking that everyone relies on you and everything will collapse if you’re not there. I can assure you (from experiences) that the office will not fall apart if you leave on time.

The fire will still be there on Monday.

I used to justify checking emails on weekends as a way to “clean my inbox” in preparation for Monday. In the high impact, promotion-driven industry that I work in now, I check emails on weekends in case there are any “fires to put out”.

Recently, I’ve boycotted this habit. Sometimes I get tempted, but I just tell myself that the fire will still be there on Monday. And if people are screaming on the weekends, they’ll scream on Monday too. Why let a work problem ruin your time off? If you’re not being compensated for checking emails on weekends, why should you?

Your boss will never appreciate you like your husband.

There’s no worse feeling than working your ass off on a project only to have your hard work be dismissed by your boss. On the same token, there’s no better feeling (at least for me) than to make a succulent dinner and have your husband inhale it within minutes while making “yum yum” noises.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve really asked myself a pivotal question. Why am I striving to make the company happy, yet I’m neglecting the one person who would do anything to make me happy? That’s a question many workaholics ought to ask themselves.

Going back to the question I posed earlier, can we really do it all?

Have a thriving career, scholar success and be a good wife, mom (for some) and friend? There are only so many hours in a day and only so much energy allotted to us. When one area of your life is getting all your energy and attention, inevitably every other area suffers the consequences. Maybe we can’t really do it all. But if we focus on what’s meaningful and fulfilling, such as nurturing healthy and loving relationships, then we’ll have it all.

Work life balance is a euphoria that I’m still striving to achieve.

One step at a time…

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