I kind of feel hypocritical writing about balance when I’m sooo not balanced in my life, no matter how hard I try. My sleep is out of whack (I’m writing this at 2:35am, and yes, I’m more often than not awake at this time), I hardly have any IRL friends left, my husband gets frustrated with me, and I get frustrated with me too.
But balance is something we all need to strive for.
You hear about work-life balance a lot, but what does it really mean? You’re supposed to have time for your hobbies and passions and friends and still get satisfaction from your work activities.
But… The “normal” work week for someone with a full-time job is 40 hours, but even more “reasonable” places expect more like 45 hours. And with cell phones and email and the like, it’s almost impossible to be fully disconnected from your job.
So, you have to fit everything else into the time you’re not at work, including sleeping, which takes up approximately 56 hours in the week if you get 8 hours each night.
And if you have kids? Forget about it!
When I was teaching full time, although I only physically spent about 12 hours a week in front of a classroom, I worked more like 60 hours a week… prepping, answering emails, meeting with students, researching, grading tests and papers, making up those tests and paper assignments to be graded, filling out required reports… Plus, being “ON” to present lessons – and attempt to be engaging and interesting and not boring – wears a body slap out.
When I was marketing director for opening a big mall, I would work more like 80 hours a week. (Somewhere I still have the calendar where I kept track of my hours and what I did each day.) I’d still be there when the cleaning crew was vacuuming the office (that noise drove me bat-shit) and the finishing staff came in to start their night, and I’d get back there in the morning before that staff had left. (I thank god for two things there: 1) the finishing staff had dinner brought in every night, and they shared with me, so I didn’t starve to death and 2) the magical suit that looked good no matter how many hours I sweated and ran around in it.)
If “work-life balance” means your work allows you to also pursue your passions, then obviously I was doing it wrong.
The only job that let me pursue my passion of writing was my very first one out of college. And only because I was bored. Oh, so very, very bored. (And oh so very poor.) But I went home and wrote at least an hour every night, and I submitted to contests and participated in workshops and panels and groups, oh my. (And this was in the bad ole’ days of no internet.)
But I was so ambitious, I went forth to conquer jobs and hone my marketing craft, and my writing side fell away. (I’m still working on coaxing my muse back.)
And now, even tho I technically have all the time in the world to pursue my artistic passion, I don’t do it… because my health is out of whack. Out of balance. My only real responsibilities are cleaning the cat litter (which wears me out) and making and going to my many doctors’ appointments. Which sounds lovely (the free time, not the doctor visits), but it’s actually kind of depressing because I can’t do – or commit to doing – more.
I googled “work-life balance“, and got back “about 107,000,000 results”… yeah, that many articles have been written on the subject. Not to mention the ton of images that came back.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know. Go read all those articles and get back to me…
When it’s 3am (like it as I type this post) and I’m aching (my neck and my lower back, especially), and I’m tired and looking at bills is stressing me out, I have to remind myself to believe.
To believe that what I’m doing matters. That what I write matters. That who I am matters.
Believe that I’ll get well.
Believe that even if I don’t, I’ll learn to live anyway.
Believe that writing these posts will help someone know they’re not alone in their own struggles.
I hope you can believe too.