Kill "Work-Life Balance".
Got your attention? Good. The whole concept of "work-life balance" is not only absolutely flawed but has not served women in their quest for pursuing a life of overall wellbeing. It's actually been a huge detriment and I'll tell you why.
Firstly, the notion of putting "work" and "life" on two sides can only position them, as being at odds with each other and not complimentary.
Secondly, "balance" suggests that women's role is to straddle both carefully ensuring that each side stays perfectly equal to one another. Am I the only one that pictures a teter totor (never, thought I'd have to put that word in print, let along look up the spelling), with a laptop and note book on one end and screaming children on the other?
A woman in a smart black pencil skirt suit stands in the middle and even with sensible pumps, she struggles to hold on two her brief case in one hand and groceries in the other, as the demands of each side goes up and down.
Let's be honest, your partner doesn't often make this visual, and if he does, he's probably helping the kids push the down the one side of the teter totor so their dear faces can have more leverage on your mommy guilt? That likely would require your boss to help push down the other side, as your work demands often require a little muscle. By the way, where do your friends fit? Oh that's right, you probably can't see them, because they are right underneath you, holding you up and helping make those necessary adjustments so you don't fall on your head. You get where I'm going. Nobody is having fun, least of all you.
If we decide to kill "work-life balance" from our vocabularies, how would we describe this endless pursuit that we intuitively recognize we've signed up? "Work-Life Integration" is a concept that has been gaining momentum and purports that removing boundaries, allowing the various elements of our life to "bleed" into one another, is the best way of managing our career and family goals. Joining a conference call on vacation isn't that disruptive after all? There's no harm in putting a sick child front of the TV and pressing "play" on his favourite video for a fifth time? I dare you to name a working woman that hasn't done this.
Multi-tasking or juggling is what women are good at... we're even told better than men. There is no doubt that technology has driven productivity, on the most part, by facilitating access to work, as well as accessibility of the employee. Not sure that performance expectation around being "on" or "available" 24/7 can be interpreted as progress in evolving the workplace for women, let along men. Remember, a largely male trait is the ability to compartmentalize which is critical in a world where you are expected to be adaptive to shifting quickly and smoothly from personal to professional demands. Otherwise, you risk being the woman who is the only one wearing the "Ms Career" outfit asking for a glass of chardonnay at the afterschool kids birthday party!
Let's leave the western view of the world for a moment and look at the eastern philosophy of managing energy -- yin and yang. Yin and Yan can be thought of as complementary, instead of opposing forces, that come together to form a whole is greater than the parts. Yin is characterized as slow, soft, and passive, characteristics that are often associated with the traditional view o femininity, while yan is fast, hard, and aggressive, characteristics associated with the traditional view of masculity.
If we apply this to our daily lives, women could potentially see some value in thinking about in how they approach their work and home demands. A holistic "you" requires both YIN or feminine energy and YAN, masculine energy and your ability to flex. As we've pushed away from the male stereotype of a successful woman, we see that what are typically male and female attributes are incredible important to our success across the continuum of our daily lives.
Walking into the house amped up still from your last meeting, with the energy that makes you successful at negotiating and leading, isn't necessarily the kind of energy that the hubby and the kids need from you. So as an alternative to managing work life balance, I propose managing your YIN and YAN energy appropriately to achieve success in the domains of your work and life.
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