Having worked in the corporate world for several years, the phrase Work-Life Balance was part of regular vocabulary for me. More so, being a working mother. I constantly watched if I was giving my work enough attention, and whether my two children received enough attention from me. If a child fell sick I constantly monitored the health of the child and I also monitored whether I was attending to official work. If I had lot of work at office, I monitored whether I was paying enough attention to my family’s requirements, while delivering what was required for the company. There was a time when I was based in Singapore and I had to work all weekdays at Kuala Lumpur on a project. Weekends were at home with the family and come 4 am on Mondays I would be on a flight to KL. Friday late night at home again. Work-life balance indeed was my mantra!
I have seen many mothers who choose to not work for the sake of their children, yet frustrated they have no career. Taking care of babies and toddlers is a different package of its own – it’s not easy for full time housewives, or anyone else for that matter, to physically manage energetic kids all day! It’s not frequently acknowledged that the mother, or primary care-giver for the children, requires his/her time too – away from the kids, so that when they get back to the kids they can actually be present to play with them, chat with them, contribute to them and be happy with their choice to be with the children.
I wish I had my current tools while I was creating my career or while raising young kids… Ask any parent how they manage their time between their children. Each child requires different attention at different times. The quality of attention may also be different. My daughter who now lives in a different city may require 5 minutes over a telephone call on some days, 2 hours on another day. She may not require talking at all for the next few days and some other times she may require my physical presence in her city. Where does balance come in all this?
What have we decided is balance? Is it based on time? Is it based on quality of time? Or is the definition of work-life balance based on some deliverables, such as: “completed project with client satisfaction as well as, children got good scores at school”?
A choice I made early in my career is that with regard to my children, “quality time” is what is required, not based on quantity of time. It seemed to work well for me at that time. If I spent even 30 minutes with a child, I was present with the child and enjoyed the time spent. However, “quality time” by definition requires us to judge frequently whether the time spent was of good quality or not. When we say “balance” we have to judge constantly what we are up to. Have I paid less attention today to my parents, my children, my spouse? Have I paid less attention today to my career or business?
Looking back, trying to create a balance between work and family was stressful by itself! I was constantly watching whether I was giving too much attention or too less to work or to family. In fact, I now realise that in those years, for me, work-life balance was actually work-family balance! In all this tight-rope walking, I forgot to give attention to myself! I wonder how many people are dealing with exactly this predicament in their life.
For most of my life, I excluded myself from virtually everything. I was at the bottom of my stack of priorities. I rarely got to the bottom of the stack of priorities – there were other pressing things all the time. I thought paying attention to my family was paying attention to me! I thought paying attention to my career was paying attention to me!
With usage of words such as balance, is there less scope for ease or more scope for ease?
What if we could choose what action was required by us for the moment and go with that? What if we didn’t have to judge where we spent less or more time? What if we could just be present to what just requires our attention for that day? What if we would be aware of who requires our attention or contribution and go with that?
What if we could include ourselves in this list too, with ease and with joy? What if including ourselves, didn’t have to immediately imply that we are being selfish? What if we including ourselves in our lives didn’t have to mean that we have to exclude others? What if could include ourselves, our family members, our friends, our work, our homes, our pets, and nature – just everything in our lives? What if we could be totally present with whom we physically are, wherever we are? With ease and with joy. With no judgements. With no requirements to hang ourselves in a weighing balance of ‘me versus the rest of the world’. Would that help us create more in our lives?