Is There Really “Work/Life” Balance? — Diary of a Baba
Posted on April 16, 2019
I know I’m going to get some pushback on this but I’ve been thinking about this more especially as our family prepares to go on our 6 month sabbatical (to Vietnam) this summer. I already know that it will be AMAZING. I’ve been getting all kinds of responses like: “I didn’t know you could do that!?” and “They are letting you leave for that long!?” to “What are you going to do there for 6 months?” and “Why only 6 months?”
This sabbatical falls into the “life” category but I’m going to be doing some writing, which tends to be seen as “work.” I’m also going to take Vietnamese language classes and we are probably going to spend more time together as a family unit — ever. I guess that all falls in the “life” category. To me, it is becoming less about the work/life balance and more about where I find joy in my life. Period. Paid “work” structurally is a big part of my life, all of our lives (if you are working). It IS a lot. And to be real, I find joy in parenting life but I’m just going to own it, life is also a lot of work! Isn’t it more about a balance between joyful and unjoyful (or less joyful) work in all parts of our lives?
“Paid “work” structurally is a big part of my life… It IS a lot. And to be real, I find joy in parenting life but I’m just going to own it, life is also a lot of work! Isn’t it more about a balance between joyful and unjoyful (or less joyful) work in all parts of our lives?”
I get the intention of the work/life balance, and there are many iterations of this. It has been useful to look at where we spend our time and our priorities — but sometimes it devolves into some other unintended and unhealthy tendencies like:
Escaping “work”: This is where self care gets conflated with many things. Some of us burn out and don’t ever want to burn out again. To protect ourselves, we leave and isolate ourselves. Sometimes the boundaries we set can be rigid but can also be useful, when done well.
Escaping “life”: Sometimes life is hard, so we grind it out at work. Or sometimes we make work our entire life because it completely fulfills us like martyrs. Some of us are dealing with guilt and privilege (that’s me). I’ve collapsed before from exhaustion and have had way too many extended eye twitches. Not fun.
These are some dynamics. There are plenty more and I’ve done it ALL.
Some listen to their mistakes, their bodies breaking down, which requires intention, compassion and trust in yourself. For me, it was a breakdown (of many) and having the right people, the homies, catch me. Some have community to catch them when the fall. Some are not so fortunate but are constantly catching others when they fall.
As my fabulous somatic coach often reminds me, it all starts with trusting yourself and others and practicing this muscle A LOT. We first learn to trust and fall at an early age and this continues through life. For non-disabled folks, when we first try to walk, we fall; when we first learn to ride a bike (or any new skill!), we fall and fail but somehow we learn it after a lot of practice. In most cases as children, we are fortunate to have people to catch us when we fall.
Also and maybe more importantly… what brings you joy? (No, I have not read Marie Kondo but a serious question!) Most of the time we’re clear what we don’t want/need and get stuck there. It took me a long time to figure out what I enjoyed about “life” or “work” — I had to re-condition myself, especially being the oldest son of a Chinese patriarch. I was trained to be “ON,” loyal and to serve others, not myself. Some of that is embedded into our movement culture too.
We have definitely have agency to bring more joy into our lives but we don’t always know what we want/need. I found out later in life that I enjoy writing these blogs and little by little made this part of my life. Later, I realized that had built up self doubt not only because of poor grammar, sentence structure, but because I was told at throughout life that I was NOT a “good writer.” Once I let that shit go (and of course centered on my purpose of being genuine), I was good!
So where can you stretch to bring more joy in your life? What can you practice doing?
Who are your homies and who do you catch when they fall?
What is your joy or less joyful / unjoyful work balance?