I wrote this one over a year ago – my son’s now in the terrible two’s. I wish I could say I’ve better mastered the balancing act…but that’d be a lie!
It’s nearly my son’s first birthday, and as any parent will attest, it’s been an…interesting time.
I have to admit that before he came along, I thought I had an understanding of the concept of ‘work-life balance’, but now I can see I had no idea!
Fitting in our primary priorities – our family, our health and our work – has proven particularly challenging. There are, as we all know, only so many hours in the day.
Which means that these priorities must be fluid and flexible, moving and shifting as time and circumstances allow – or require.
I’ve started calling this the ‘three-armed seesaw’ of our priorities.
Imagine a normal seesaw, but with three arms instead of the usual two. To continue the analogy, on each arm rests the commitment and time required to pursue our three primary priorities.
In my mind, it’s practically impossible to balance a seesaw with three arms (besides removing any load from the arms, of course) so, at best, there’ll be two priorities that we can elevate at any given time – leaving the third grounded.
Physical reality means that time spent working is time that can’t be spent with family, and time spent with family can (often) be time not spent on your health.
But that’s ok!
Because seesaws move and they swing and they rise and they fall. The fun is in finding the ever-moving equilibrium.
So, instead of trying to balance all three, I’ve decided to instead try and rotate which one is ‘on the ground’ at any given time.
And to also make the absolute most of the time spent in the air.
Which means being present when spending time with family – not (as I’m quite guilty of) on my phone or flicking around on tv.
It means carving out time to focus on our health – every day, every week, every month.
Time spent at work needs to be time spent working. The kind of head-down, grindstone commitment that means you can leave at the end of the day satisfied with the day’s work and then switch off.
I’m wary of this becoming one of those tiresome ‘life’s so great, yours can be too!’ informercial bragfests propping up the internet, so I will say it’s not terribly easy and the three-armed seesaw makes ‘perfection’ impossible.
It means sacrificing time and feeling guilty and missing things and feeling like you’re spread too thin.
Which is, I feel, a pretty tidy description of modern life for a lot of people.
But what the seesaw does do is encourage you to accept that you can’t keep all three arms up at the same time, so be easier on yourself and enjoy focusing on the ones in the air.