“No such thing as work-life balance? Now you tell me!”
That was a typical reaction to my recent column about Stewart Friedman’s book, Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. In the book, Friedman argues that trying to balance the personal and professional is an exercise in frustration. The goal should be to understand the “four domains” of your life — work, home, community and the “private realm” of mind, body and spirit — and accept that you can never perfectly balance all four in terms of time and energy. Instead, look for how each can inform and enrich the other.
Older readers seemed to grasp the concept better than their younger counterparts. That’s no surprise, given that most Gen Xers and millennials are still working hard to establish their professional credentials and many are in the early stages of marriage and parenthood.
As one 30-something nurse executive wrote: “I’ve got a husband and two young kids, and a heavy workload at the hospital where I work. I feel like I’m not giving any of them the attention they need. The guilt is overwhelming.”
Responding on LinkedIn, one baby boom executive was sympathetic. “I remember when I was in my first management position and trying to impress my bosses and my staff. I worked 12-hour days, took work home with me, and barely had time to hug my kids good night.”
As Friedman recommends, this individual took stock of his priorities and adjusted his life accordingly. “The first thing was to understand that there are limits,” the executive wrote. “There is a limit to the hours in a day and the days in your life. Yes, my job matters, and I will give it a lot, but I won’t give it my all. Coaching my daughter’s soccer team and taking the family on weekend outings brings me joy and peace of mind, and, I firmly believe, makes me a more productive employee and a better leader at work.”
Other LinkedIn community members said they’ve learned to carve out more time to participate in church activities, do volunteer work at food pantries and senior centers, and, as one put it, “escape from the real world” with her favorite Netflix series. “It refreshes you to go back to your regular tasks. You have a cleaner brain and a clearer perspective.”
Another wrote: “The resentment I used to have about the demands of my job is gone. I’m happier and more productive now.”
I particularly enjoyed the story Lyn McVey, chief operating officer at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J., shared. Here’s what she wrote:
“Your ‘balanced life’ piece in H&HN rings very familiar to my teachings to my daughter (and to anyone who would listen). I thought this might amuse you.
"When my kid was old enough to listen (3, 4 or 5), I repeatedly taught her that love comes from four resources (similar to your four domains):
- Your family and friends
- Your work
- Your significant other
- Your self
"I taught her that they each need to be 25 percent of her love. My goal was to protect her heart. I watched too many young women make their boyfriends their whole world, which in my book, is too risky.
"Last week, after a vacation with her boyfriend of four years, this 22-year-old explained to me that if they ever split, she’d be OK because she loves her job. If she ever lost her job, it’d give her more time with her friends. If they all moved away, she’d be alone to read more, refinish furniture and paint more. She spoke with such conviction that I knew she was taking full credit for the “four domains” concept of a life in balance."
Thanks, Lyn, and to all who responded. I look forward to hearing how others are juggling all the demands in their lives. Click here to contact me.