Tears, Joys + Swear Words: On Seeking Work/Life Balance

Tears, Joys + Swear Words: On Seeking Work/Life Balance

What does your family’s mix of work, child care, and personal projects look like? (Many of us believe that work/life balance is a myth; so, let’s call it a mix, okay?)

I write about creativity here. Honestly, cobbling together solutions for a family’s needs is its own creative project—perhaps the greatest of all.

The barriers to balance are real. Unresolved socioeconomic and cultural problems impact our ability to meet our needs, let alone our desires. American culture still bases work hours and benefits on a 9-to-5, full-time, in-person institutional model. Yet, school hours require someone to pick up our children mid-afternoon. Day care remains unaffordable for many families.

Our culture never truly found communal solutions to work/life balance. Where is that village? (Insert a wistful look in my eyes.)

I’m going to get political: this is the dark side of an individualist, capitalist culture. Our families and communities are fodder for the machine. Plus, many of our most vulnerable citizens are left in the dust—people of color, people who are low-income, and people with disabilities. If I could sum up our country’s greatest challenges in one word it would be: inequality

In essence, we can’t talk about work/life balance and creativity without talking about inequality.

The personal remains political:

  • If you never quite get to your creative pursuits.
  • If your thoughts are always about “should”‘s and your to-do lists.
  • If you have to divert money from your creative pursuits toward your family’s basic needs instead.
  • If you can’t keep up with all of your responsibilities, let alone your dreams.
  • If you think “damn it, why does it have to be so hard?”

Remember:

  • You are not a personal failure; your challenges have a cultural context.
  • Please, friend, lighten up on your negative self-talk.
  • Be reassured by the fact that you’re not alone.
  • Find a little self-compassion for yourself and your challenges. You deserve that, just as much as anyone.

This topic is on my mind today because, after seven years of working part-time, I resume full-time work next week. While I’ve long planned to do this when my daughters reached school age, it’s simultaneously exciting, scary, and sad as it happens. So, I feel re-inspired to create space for this work/life/creativity conversation.

I don’t know about you, but I love to hear how families find their creative mix.

To be transparent and encourage conversation here, I’ll share what’s on my mind amid my change to full-time work.

My Work/Life Balance Headspace:

  • As a feminist, I’m happy to be making a more equitable contribution to my family’s income.
  • I’m fortunate to have had access to higher education. I’m glad to put my knowledge to use and to further immerse myself in my career.
  • I’m excited for paid vacation and sick days.
  • I’m grateful that my husband’s profession is unionized and I wish mine was. (The nonprofit sector is meaningful, but not as financially rewarding.)
  • I feel nostalgic as one phase ends and another begins for my family.
  • I admit: I’m fearfully anticipating that chaos will ensue! 
  • I’m going to miss my couple weekdays off.
  • I feel sad about having fewer opportunities to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms.
  • I’m worried that I’m not going to be able to exercise and meditate as much.
  • I appreciate that this is all softened by the fact that my husband is a teacher. He can make it to the bus stop most afternoons, and will be home with them in the summer.
  • I’m grateful that we have parents around to help fill in the gaps.
  • I feel privileged in many ways. I acknowledge how much harder it is for so many others (a giant bow to the single parents, minimum-wage workers, and multiple-job holders).
  • I tell myself what I tell my clients: awareness of privilege is important, but guilt generally isn’t helpful. You can only live the life before you. Your stories matter and your wellbeing matters.

I’m guessing you have a weighty list of pros and cons in your head too, when it comes to your current attempts at work/life balance.

Isn’t this a great reminder to have compassion for one another? We all struggle in our own ways. We should take action to help the most vulnerable, while also avoiding bitter comparison along the way.

Let’s seek cultural solutions together.

The barriers to work/life balance are real. Let's talk about it...

A Work/Life/Creativity Manifesta:

I’ll continue to write and coach here. It’s my passion/empowerment project, and my creative outlet. Personally, I love having a steady paycheck and keeping my creativity free from financial responsibility.

No matter your story, let’s celebrate that:

  • You are every bit a creative person, no matter how much nor how little money you make off it.
  • Your family is doing the best it can, in its own unique way right now.
  • Creative freedom matters, and it takes many forms.
  • Despite challenges, there’s empowerment to be found in seeking your own version of creative living.
  • There are many beautiful paths forward. I tip my hat to you, from the trail.

Huzzah and Happy Friday, friends! 

See you soon; my monthly Must-Reads for Creatives column returns in October…

Comment: What does your family’s mix of work, child care, and personal projects look like?

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Photo credits: sunset by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash. Boy by feipeng yi on Unsplash.

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