“How do I structure my life to be at peace with who I am, & comfortable with what I’m doing & not doing?” Elizabeth Grace Saunders
‘Work/life balance’ – a mantra often heard in the quest for happiness and general well-being. Much literature has been written about it. I have certainly attended my share of conferences or seminars, where the phrase has been thrown around as if I ought to understand it. Yet something about this phrase fails to resonate with me.
I was facilitating a group of lawyers on mental health awareness and self-care when I was asked to provide some ‘examples’ on how to maintain work/life balance. And out of my contemplative mind, I replied, “But there is only life”. Then the the penny dropped.
What bothers me about the phrase is the dualistic standpoint accorded to work and life. ‘Work/life balance’ pits ‘work’ (let’s read jobs, career into this as well) against ‘life’. It suggests if we could only manage work, we stand a good chance of being happy and healthy, right? Is ‘life’ distinct from work? Does one necessarily take away from the other? What is this ‘whole’ to which work and life belong? Worse, ‘work/life balance’ is served up as an ultimate goal, for which we each ought to work towards. It necessarily also implies meanings to ‘work’ and ‘life’ that are none too functional. It somehow suggests our life is not right. perhaps we are not enough, unless and until we attain this elusive ‘work/life balance’.
My take is this – there is only life. Your life, my life, along which each of us journeys – sometimes with a skip and a hop, sometimes with drudgery, sometimes with joy, sometimes with pain. And along this journey, we parent, we love, we enjoy, we learn, we work. And we make choices – big ones and little ones, every moment in our life.
We can only appraise and make appropriate choices regarding the composition of our life including the degree of significance work ought to be at this moment. ‘Appropriate’ being subjective, there is no judgment here.
Embrace this life you are in!