Work-life balance is an illusion

I recently got the question: ‘You are always so responsive, also in the evenings. How do you manage your work-life balance?’

My honest reply was: I don’t. I don’t even try to.

I have a pretty strong, renegade opinion about work-life balance:

Work-Life balance is complete nonsense.

Yes, I have said it. It’s a myth.

Work-life balance implies that the time, attention and energy you put into your work is always equal to the time, attention and energy you put into your private life. A balance implies an equilibrium, stillness, passiveness

I don’t know about your life, but my life is always fluctuating, moving, and active, as unforeseen things are happening and my focus continuously shifts. One day my priorities lean more towards work, and the next day more towards my private life. And that’s OK. I accept that.

work-life balance is an illusion

Trying to keep a work-life balance will only cause more stress and frustration. Once you feel you have reached a kind of equilibrium, something happens in your life and that equilibrium vanishes. And that’s when you start to feel bad about yourself, feel you lose control and start to feel inadequate.

Now let’s be honest. How often do you take your work worries and work stress home? And vice versa, when your child is ill, or you have a big fight with your partner, I bet this influences your workday, right?

In today’s environment and society boundaries between work and home fade. But not only because of this, but women in particular also have difficulties separating professional and private life. It’s also because of how the female brains work. Men are biologically just way more able to compartmentalize than women.

Why not accept that one week you will be fully immersed in work, and next week your attention is more at home?

It’s actually not so much balance you are seeking, as peace.

Peace in setting your (ever-fluctuating) priorities, and in the consequences of the decisions you make accordingly. That you feel OK that you Netflix instead of doing your admin, and you chase a deadline instead of preparing a healthy meal. That you don’t feel guilty, failing or not good enough. This doesn’t make you a bad person, mom, partner, manager or role model. It just makes you a real one.

So let’s strive for work-life harmony, work-life integration or a work-life circle. It doesn’t matter how you want to call it, but it means that your work and life are in flow, working together in a kind of wave motion, where one adapts to the other and vice versa. And most importantly, where you give yourself permission to go with that wave and accept your life will always be in motion.

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