“Gone is the notion of balance. Increasingly, professionals are comfortable blurring the line between work and home.” – Laura Vanderkam
I am a working mother. I am a mother. Mommy. It sounds so strange. After 12 weeks of maternity leave, I emerged sleep deprived and slightly insane but ready to jump back into the adult world of work. As a new mom, returning to work was daunting with a bit of excitement sprinkled in sparingly.
Will I remember how to use Photoshop? Hell, will I remember how to drive! Would they notice I was gone? Will I be able to function away from my baby? And the big one – will I even be able to stay awake for 8 hours at my desk after this baby has kept me awake for half the night? These questions and more ran through my frazzled brain everyday leading up to the dreaded FIRST. DAY. BACK.
I reminded myself not to worry as my place of work prides itself on a great work/life balance environment. Let’s think about that phrase for a minute, what does it even mean?
Before I had a child, it meant that I was able to get out of work at a reasonable time so I could get to happy hour before the half priced margaritas ran out. It meant that I would never find myself working on the weekends. It meant balancing work and play. It meant focusing solely on work while I was at work, and not worrying about it once I left the office each day.
Can you maintain this separate but equal balance when you have a family? Should you? The term implies you have to equally balance both your work life and your home life at two opposite ends of a scale. Never the two shall mix! When you are at home, you aren’t supposed to be working or even thinking about work. At work, you better not be thinking about your kid and if he’s crying at daycase, or all the chores you need to do to get ready for that BBQ you are throwing. That reminds me, I really need to do some laundry…Work is for work, home is for home.
The work/life balancing act is a notion that really doesn’t work for the working parent and their families. It really doesn’t work for anyone anymore! Compartmentalizing our work and personal life is simply not possible. We live in an age where we are constantly connected to work emails and IM’s through phones, laptops, and tablets. We work in an age where we need to schedule meetings around time zones. More and more companies are offering work from home for their employees so even regular day to day meetings need to be able to be held online. This is becoming the norm.
As a new mom I have realized that things happen that are beyond my control. These things don’t just happen outside of the 9-5 workday. Most of the time, these things need my immediate attention and can’t wait until I’m off work for the day. This is the same for people without families to tend to. When is the last time you had a doctor or dentist appointment that only lasted 30 mins and you were able to travel there and back, have the appointment, and still make it back to work all within your allotted 1hr lunch break. Impossible!
I have also realized that sometimes on a Saturday while I’m cleaning the house, I think of an awesome idea for a project I’m working on and immediately drop everything to jump on my computer to start designing. You never know when your creativity will strike and you just have to go with it! I am lucky that I actual enjoy what I do, and have the ability to create beautiful (well, in my opinion..) designs whenever the mood hits!
“Instead of endorsing the work-life balance myth, organizations are far better off empowering employees to integrate work and life, in ways that position them to succeed at both.” – Ron Friedman
Being in the creative field means you might not be creative during the 9-5pm Monday-Friday work week. Companies need to understand that some people prefer to work late into the night, or wake up before everyone else to get their work done. If this is the case we can no longer separate our work life and home life. Instead we have to allow for the two to mix, so that both can make up your whole life. Your life is a living breathing organism that thrives on everything you do during your days, nights, and weekends. All the ingredients of your life need to be able work together fluidly in order for you to be the best employee and mother (or father, grandmother, sister, etc).
Laura Vanderkam completed a study of 1001 days in the lives of high-earning women and their families and found that “a full 75 percent of time logs showed something personal during traditional work hours: exercise, school visits. On the flip-side, 77 percent showed work outside the workday norm. Women took calls after their kids went to bed. They wrote reports on weekends.” (source)
If you really enjoy what you do there is no way you will be able to have a strict work/life balance. Now that our work life can so easily infiltrate our personal time (ping! I think I just got an email) we have to reinvent the way we look at work schedules. Companies need to realize that enforcing strict 9-5pm work days will not work for anyone. Employees are increasing looking for more flexibility in their work days when searching for jobs. By giving your employees more freedom to control their own schedules will lead to happier more productive workers and better companies. Work is no longer separate from your life, it is part of it.