Work-Life Balance: Possibility or Myth?
Young people today try to achieve a healthier work-life balance than the older generations did. Margaret’s younger son says it all the time, “All you and dad seemed to do was work and worry about us (the kids).” Our generation wants to also enjoy the journey of life—have time to be with friends and family, travel, exercise, pursue hobbies and give back.
That’s just not the way we were when we were brought up. We are part of the cohort that strived to pursue both, and mostly only, family and work.
Oh, we tried to heed the concept of having a work-life balance, but it was nearly impossible. And as time went on, the responsibilities piled up like bills. We had aging parents, whom we cared for and worried about. As our kids grew, they required more of our time and attention. Work got more demanding too. We had to produce the best product possible, which often resulted in falling behind in others area of our lives.
Barbara tried to remember what she was told while a senior at an all-women’s college that warned its graduating seniors to discard the notion and instead heed the concept that, “You can do it all but not often all at the same time.” That was better advice, she says more than 50 years later, even if it’s harder to do at times.
Life today has become more complicated. Just work and family seem a relatively easy balancing act. What most of us now try to balance can be crazy making. Even if you’ve stepped back from work, you may be preoccupied with volunteer work, an extended family that now includes grandchildren and maybe a close circle of friends who are almost like family or sometimes more so. This means apportioning the right time for all.
And then there’s our health, which may not have taken up as much time and concern way back when we were young and vigorous with fewer doctors to see. Now, most of us have more appointments to keep track of even if we’re not sick. We’re running to the dermatologist, internist, gyn or prostate doc if a guy, therapist, eye doctor, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, podiatrist, orthopedist, dentist and more.
Factor in our social lives so we’re not isolated, which we now know can affect us negatively both physically and mentally.
We also have homes to maintain of all sizes filled with the stuff we’re trying to give away, sell or donate, and maybe a second one if we’re lucky; cooking to do even if not gourmet since we still need to eat and may not like take-out; trips to take now that we’re a bit less worried about Covid but do so before it’s too difficult to travel and fulfill our bucket lists; books to read, games to play such as crossword or jigsaw puzzles; hobbies to pursue (gardening, crocheting, painting, collecting, knitting); fitness to do for social and health reasons, and sometimes now adding in a nap or two and favorite TV shows, which some of us have spent more time on since the pandemic began.
Add our renewed interest in spiritual activities, which may mean morning meditation or going to church and temple services in person or on zoom. We also keep searching for the meaning of life, being grateful that we have another day ahead of us and wanting to pack in as much as possible.
All this takes time—more than the 24 hours in a day since that’s not changed--and choices weigh on us. We run around with all that we do and then question whether we are shortchanging anything or anybody. Have you heard this recently, “You used to be there for me, but recently, you haven’t been a very good friend.” So, you add guilt into the balancing act. How do you manage that?
Work-life balance and thinking in “shoulds” need to be shed. Instead, we recommend a more positive approach. Try waking up each day feeling gratitude. Then, step by step, maybe tackle what’s in front of you that must get done, without worrying if you’re doing enough of this or that. And at the end of the day, don’t fret that you completely forgot to do something such as wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary. Do it tomorrow, the intention is still good, and most will forgive you. After all, in the end, will it really matter?
To cope you can also vary your routine for more balance with a little bit of this or that—like a dash of salt, pepper or your favorite spice. We think this recipe will help make your life more delicious, joyous and happier.