The Struggle Of Balancing Work and Personal Freedom
The phrase work/life balance does not adequately describe the complexity of what a human beings potential is for living a dynamic life. Essentially this ratio implies that 50% of this so-called balance is work, and the other 50% is life. Work is work, a means to an end. Life, a process, is comprised of many dynamic parts. When you grant life only 50% of this “pie” you undervalue your life equity, and give yourself less opportunity to design a life that is meaningful, and holistic. Can a person’s life ever truly be “in balance”, perfectly symmetrical, in a state of equilibrium? In essence “balance” is a state constantly in threat of flux. Perhaps we can identify with momentary balance, but something beyond our control inevitably “tips the scale” in one direction or another. I think it is more apt to claim this issue as Personal Life Equality versus a state of balance that is difficult to confirm and maintain. PLF is a mindful decision to eliminate discrimination of one aspect of your life over another, broadening the scope of meaning and roles in play.
It became apparent to me that the work/life balance ratio is flawed after I spoke to Gali Cinamon, PhD Professor of Career Development at Tel Aviv University. Professor Cinamon has studied work/family conflict for over 13 years. She recommends broadening the scope of this pie beyond only work and life to include four distinct areas of focus: work/family/community/leisure. “We have the power to reframe,” says Cinamon, “and the power to educate ourselves and others to shift our consciousness. This is the most important issue of our society. We are richer when we define ourselves through more than one role.”
I’m a working mother, and I’ve been struggling with this work/life balance issue for the past 8-½ years after my first child was born. I’m happy I have a career and two beautiful children that give me much joy, but often I feel isolated by the reality of the day to day that is punctuated by inner turmoil, oscillating between guilt (that I’m not giving anything my full attention, and I’m letting someone down), busy-ness (there is so much to do!), and a general “I want more out of life!” feeling. The irony is that the women who I can relate to on this subject, the working mothers, are so busy just like me that there appears to be no time to bond over this issue, and brainstorm solutions. Where are the working mother support groups? I think this is an idea worth investigating.
As I reflect about the trajectory of my career and raising a family, I see specific identifiable phases. After my first child was born the ratio was primarily work/family, and the proverbial “balancing act” that comes with that ratio. In this phase I found there was almost no time for friends, quality time with my husband, and definitely no time for myself. I dropped my meditation and yoga practice during this phase and prayed for a good night’s sleep.
After several years the ratio broadened to include personal time, more quality time with my husband, and time for community. I joined a committee at my children’s school where we focus on community organizing. I am also making girls night out a priority, to get some of that much-needed girl bonding time, and my meditation practice is back on track. When I first began my expansion beyond work and family it was tough. I feared that I would drop the ball at work, or at home. I did a few times, and it wasn’t the end of the world. We all survived.
Cinamon has made a career of guiding people on anticipating work/family expectations with young adults. She stresses that awareness of the work/family/community/leisure equation needs to start at a young age. “This drive to be a good student equals being a good worker,” states Cinamon. “We don’t learn only through class lessons – this is old fashioned.” She stresses the need to integrate these four roles into our curriculum and our educational perspectives to raise awareness.
What do you think of Personal Life Equality? Do you think it is a good platform to raise awareness about our right to live a more meaningful, fulfilled life? When I reframe, as Cinamon suggests, it gives me an opportunity to see life in a bigger way, and actively seek ways to give work, family, community and leisure, equal opportunities to impact my life.