Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Problem with Work-Life Balance

I think of myself as a team player, someone others can rely on to pitch in and help out when possible.

Honestly, this is a struggle for me sometimes, because I tend to be a people-pleaser, and I have a hard time saying "no" to things. My challenge is this: if I have the gifts/talents/strengths to help someone who is in need of that set of gifts/talents/strengths, it feels wrong for me not to help them. I feel like I'm failing them, and I I'm failing God somehow too. I believe He is the one who has given me these gifts, after all. And I believe He has called me to use them for the good of the body--to help and support others.

Right now, the struggle for me is striking a balance between my work life, my studies, home and family life, church commitments, and still carving out some time for myself. I love all of these parts of my life, and I don't want to drop the ball on any of them. But that's a real challenge! There are only so many hours in a day, and sometimes, something has to give...

Image by Hiroh Satoh [CC BY 2.0]

I often hear people talk about "work-life balance," but I have come to really dislike this term. I think I understand where they are coming from: avoid becoming consumed with your working life, and make sure that there is space for other good things in your life as well. But setting it up as a "balance" makes me think it's about putting "work" on one side of a teeter-totter, and "life" on the other side, and trying to make them equal. The problem with this for me? Work is an essential, integral part of my life! It isn't separate from the rest of my life any more than being a husband or father is separate from the rest of my life. My work life is part of my life, and an enjoyable, valuable, meaningful part at that.

Maybe "rhythm" is a better word than "balance?" I'm a musician, so this analogy makes sense to me: how do I ensure that my work life is in tempo with the other important parts of my life, and not getting off the beat, or taking solo stage, or dominating the rest of the band?

So I think that is what I'm striving for: a better sense of rhythm, ensuring that my work life is keeping time with the other important parts of my life!


  1. This post really speaks to me because I think I could have written each word of it! I tend to say yes too often and then wonder why I feel guilty that I can't give each commitment 100%. I think balance doesn't have to be equally distributed at all times. Sometimes we need to put more attention to some areas vs. others, and that's perfectly fine.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jen. It's good to know I'm not alone in this! I know there are many great teachers who struggle with this sense of "balance;" I think that to be really good as an educator means you have to dedicate a certain amount of your time, energy, and attention to it. But something then has to give, right? So finding the right rhythm--emphasizing the right things at the right time--is the key! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  2. Richard Swenson has written a couple of books on this topic: Balance, Margin, and Contentment.

  3. Work life balance Surrey is a concept including proper prioritizing between "work" (career and ambition) and "lifestyle".

  4. I really like this school of thought. Coming from a musical family, it makes perfect sense!