Is There a Secret to Work-Life Balance?

by Alli Polin on January 22, 2019

Last week my family and I were on vacation, and this week we’re back home… but school’s not yet in session; it’s still summer vacation. They want my time and attention, and I want to get things done.  

Blog, website, writing, calls, scheduling… I’ve got things to do.  

Still… 

They are in their early teens and, get this, they still want to hang out with me. They want to go to lunch and watch shows like Grown-ish and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo with me. They want to hang out (when they’re not watching YouTube or playing Xbox) and simply be together. How crazy awesome is that?

Here’s the question:

Have I built a life where I will tell them to leave me alone until it’s after 5:00 or one where I prioritize closing my computer?

There were many years when I didn’t have a choice, but since our move overseas, I’ve said that I’ve made a shift. It took me a long time to choose satisfaction over someone else’s definition of success, but here I am, facing a choice, and feeling the pressure.

I’ve written about it, given talks about it, and podcasts too. This week, their last full week of summer was a test. Am I a “do what I say but not what I do” kind of person or someone who is living a life with words, values, and actions in alignment?  

“Work-life balance isn’t a concept, it’s your choices in action.”

Work-Life Balance is More Than Taking a Vacation

Last week on vacation my son didn’t want to come out with us for breakfast and a day of unplanned adventures. In truth, some of the so-called adventures sounded boring to him, no surprise given that it likely included more than a few stops for wine tasting.  

I told him: We only have today once. One time. This is the only day in our lives when you will be this exact number of days in your 13th year and your sister in her 15th. We can choose to stare at our tech and stay in our bubbles or choose to make memories that we joyfully carry with us forever. What do you choose? 

He then told me he chose to play Fortnite and we should go have a good time.  

I fumed, and we left. (I also threw a lovely tantrum in the car which I will not elaborate on here) 

Five minutes later, my FaceTime rang and it was our son asking us to come and get him. We turned around the car, hit the reset on the day, and had one of the best days as a family than we’d had in a long time.  

That day, we went to The Big Orange, Gnomesville and had an incredible lunch at a winery with views that fed our souls.  

But that was vacation, right? Back home; back to work.  

Our time at the beach should tide me over for what, the next six months? Work-life balance in action? 

My old boss would probably tell me that I took a vacation so that must mean I’ve got this work-life balance thing down. Um, no.  

Balance is a Misnomer

I’ll admit, today I didn’t get much done on my to-do list but I did get a manicure with my daughter, we went out to lunch, got school uniforms and laughed together over some random silly articles on BuzzFeed. My son and I read books next to each other, talked about what we need to do to get ready for our new puppy, and he offered to help make dinner with me.  

There are times in our careers where we are on fire. We work long hours and get shit done. There are other times when we make different choices; embrace the lull before the next storm.  

Balance implies equality, right? Scales. Perfectly level.  

It’s time for you to press delete on your mental image of those scales.  

Balance is about moments, and they do add up. How many moments are you prioritizing in all of the different parts of your life? There are a lot of things that make up a full life: career, partner, kids, family, self-care, exercise, travel, etc.  

It’s not work-life balance you’re seeking but instead mindfully creating a robust life that energizes you instead of taking every last bit.  

How do You get Work-Life Balance Right?

My coaching clients have asked me if they’re making the right choices balancing work and family. All I know is that none of us get it right 100% of the time. Balance is about choices, and each of us gets to make ‘em, good and bad, there is no handbook.  

Also true, what’s right for me with respect to work-life balance may not be right for my brother, client or friend. There is no one way of getting it right.  

Tomorrow is a no-tech day for our family. It’s still hot as hell here so we won’t be doing much outside but choosing to be together. For me, in this moment, that’s the right choice. 

Don’t beat yourself up if you choose work over family or family over work or somewhere in between. All any of us can do is our best. If you do that, you’re golden.   

There is no secret to work-life balance other than being present no matter where you are and who you’re with. If when you’re working, you’re stressing about family, that’s not working.  Similarly, if you’re with your family and 10,000 miles away mentally, with your head still at work, it’s not time well spent.  

No matter where you choose to be, be there.  

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate Nasser January 22, 2019 at 7:02 am

Hi Alli,
Choices … as you say … are the key to this concept of work life balance. And for parents, it also means asserting to their kids that balance is important and that the family will focus on it.

IMO: There is an extra “future” benefit to asserting that. It teaches kids that life is about choices and that thinking you must have it all every single minute actually blocks you from joy, happiness, and yes having it all.

Just a few thoughts that jumped to my mind as I read your post.
Great article!
Kate

Reply

Alli Polin January 22, 2019 at 7:59 am

I strongly agree, Kate. We talk to our children about it all the time. It’s important for kids to see their parents close their laptops too. Life is not one big huge multi-tasking party.

Thanks for getting me thinking and adding to the conversation!

Alli

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Terri Klass January 22, 2019 at 8:35 am

Fantastic post Alli! And your vacation looks spectacular!

This work/life balance is so tricky. But essentially I think being able to do both can work as long as we realize not at the same time. And like you I always decide what is best at any point in my life or day. Once I decide I honor my choice and don’t compare myself to any one else. (Not easy)

Thanks Alli and will share! Welcome back!

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Gary Gruber January 22, 2019 at 8:40 am

I’ve come to a point where I finally figured it out and it’s this. Work some between vacations instead of the other way around. However, that has a lot to do with where you are in stages of life.
We just met a young couple who “retired” at age 35 with a one-year old. They share there story here: http://www.lostinjourney.com/ I have recommended it two of our grandsons who graduated from college last year and started new jobs. And yes, it’s all about choices, the 0nes we make and the ones we don’t take. I have said before, I don’t know anyone who comes to the end and says, “Gosh, I wish I had worked longer.” This work-life thing should perhaps be life-work because the subtle, not so subtle, suggestion is that work is dominant

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LaRae Quy January 23, 2019 at 2:17 pm

This post is an excellent reminder to everyone—we need to be present in the moment and not living our life in the future…or the past. I tend to always look ahead and it’s kept me from enjoying precious, special times in the here and now. I’m working at it…and getting better, but this is a great reminder to not give up!

And now, what about that new puppy????????

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