This post should be on my other website, strictly speaking; it’s much more concerned with family and personal life than it is with beauty or fashion or (new passion!) interiors. But these worlds necessarily cross over and I thought that a bit of a chat about work and life and balancing the two things might be interesting to you. If you don’t read my family blog, The Uphill, then you can read it here or subscribe to the posts via email here. It’s very much baby- and mum-life focused but offers a bit of light relief and (hopefully) down-to-earth reality if the world of Insta-perfect posing and preening sometimes gets you down.
Now to the issue at hand: work-life balance. Phrases such as “work-life balance” and “digital detox” and “sleep hygiene” have become buzzwords for our generation and I don’t know whether it’s because we are altogether more self-obsessed (stay with me, don’t get all offended and stroppy!) or whether we genuinely try to do too many things at once. Because in this modern age we can do too many things at once. There’s no way my Mum could have worked full time with three young children and no help, but today’s Mum can kill herself trying, because she has a smart phone and a laptop and a 24/7 connection with the outside world that never turns itself off. She can work at 2am, if she wants to (and she often does) and because the opportunity is there she more often than not feels as though she’s somehow failing if she doesn’t take every possible chance to “get things done”.
(I’m using mothers as an example because they probably have the ultimate guilt-ridden, stress-laden work-life juggle. I’m not by any means trying to trivialise the workload of non-Mums; blimey, I used to work 70+ hours a week before I had Angelica. It was ridiculous. Working too much is probably more of a hazard when you don’t have children – there’s very little to make you stop, if you’re a bit of a workaholic. You just keep on going into the night until your eyes are as dry as little prunes and you’ve become all jumpy and weird because it’s so quiet outside and the house is making funny creaks.)
But back to this whole work/life balance thing. Are we making a fuss over something that we should just take in our stride? Stop analysing so much? Recently I’ve started to thing that we could really simplify matters by admitting that there is possibly no such thing as a work life balance! You either work too much and hate it for various reasons and therefore have to cut down, or you love your work but don’t have enough time for it and basically have to find a way to shoehorn it in wherever you can. Which is what I now have to do with a two year old toddler and a one year old baby. I have a nanny for two days a week and I try and get the bulk of my work done then, but inevitably I only get around 30-40% done in those two days and find myself writing proposals for brand work at 10.30pm and editing video footage over breakfast when the babies are watching Paw Patrol. I don’t want to work flat-out for any more days than that, because I want to spend time with the children before they grow up too fast and hop off to school and then university and then OH GOD. Really, if I was a sane human being, I would have more dedicated work days, but it just doesn’t feel comfortable for some reason. It niggles.
And I’m lucky that I’m in the position that I can choose to work less, but in actual fact I’m not really working less at all, I’m just fitting the work in (haphazardly) elsewhere. Because I want to do it. That’s the “work-life balance” I’ve found, but there’s absolutely no balance to it, I’ve just prioritised time with the babies over having more luxuriously quiet and uninterrupted work days.
But by applying the word “balance” to my set-up, I constantly question it all and wonder whether the time I’m allocating to my career is enough, or whether I should really be on Instagram when I should be fully engaged in bashing a wooden frog’s head with a hammer for the eightieth time. Is the idea of a “work-life balance” actually helpful to anyone? I mean, you either work as much as you do because you have to, in which case there’s not much movement there and it’s pointless beating yourself up over it, or you work because you want to.
I suppose the idea of a work-life balance is there to remind us that we need to have downtime and the space to do things other than drive our careers or do enough overtime to pay for a nicer car. (For many people, the idea of a work life balance is laughable because they are paid such a despicably low wage they are forced to toil all the hours God sends, which is a whole other discussion.) The notion of balance is perhaps a good thing for those who might otherwise speed through life without ever stopping to take a breath and appreciate the ride – the serial goal-setters, the incurable achievement-addicts and the people who never feel as though their best is good enough.
Perhaps it’s different when life forces you to slow down – through starting a family, or maybe through ill-health – perhaps then the idea of a “work-life balance” is more about how you juggle the necessary components of your life, rather than remembering to take some time out of your 100% work existence.
I’d love to know your thoughts. I’m sure that this has turned into a bit of a jumble, really, which is – as I said at the start – a post more fitting to The Uphill. But I know that so many readers here struggle with time management and fitting everything in; I suppose I wanted to offload! Comments welcome.
Oh: and have we become more self-obsessed? Analysing everything from our sleep quality to our bowel movements to the number of hours we spend looking at Twitter? Or is it a good thing that we’ve started to take a long hard look at ourselves?