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Rethinking Work-Life Balance  

Work-life balance has become quite the catchphrase, especially among working parents. But is it achievable? Can we leave work stress at the office and be more present with our families? It’s a nice thought, we know. The thing is, it’s easier said than done. 

We all love to follow rules like drinking eight glasses of water a day or walking 10,000 steps. If we follow these rules, we feel accomplished. Better about ourselves. Parenting is no different.

The rules of being a parent are vast, always evolving, fluid and often impossible to achieve. Part of the problem is adding the often-touted work-life balance rule to the mix. But I call BS. People don’t need another rule to make them feel less-than. 

Work-life balance comes from a good place. When Lillian Moller Gilbreth introduced the term back in the 1920s, it was to help women who were working long hours in factories. It gained popularity in the ’80s with the Women’s Liberation Movement advocating for more flexible schedules and maternity leave. It has since morphed again, but this time it seems to have become yet another perfection clause women must strive to meet. 

In 2023, I would like to think the term can evolve further. Instead of becoming another thing to make us feel like we’re failing, my wish is that it becomes a check-in with ourselves, to make sure work and life aren’t making us feel like we’re spread too thin. It shouldn’t be about trying to maintain a consistent 50/50 balance. 

As a mom to two boys all grown up, consider me your wise sage in this arena and take my advice: Embrace the term, but with a refreshed, me-first perspective versus panicking because you are spending too much time at your job and not enough time with your family. Sometimes a deadline needs your full attention. Other times a sick kiddo demands all of you and work takes a backseat. Shit happens and, to me, it’s all about triage: React to the pot that is about to boil over and try not to feel bad about it. 

You’ll know when you have reached burnout—it’s when you need a break from your work, boss, kids, partner, parents, in-laws and even friends. You’ll be angry, moody, tough on yourself and snappy with your family. (This is when you lose it over tiny things, like socks on the floor or having to listen to “Baby Shark” for millionth time.) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that you may have work-life imbalance. That’s when you should hit the proverbial snooze button and recharge. And I will not patronize you by telling you to take a hot bath, read a good book or meditate. You do you.  

Bottom line from someone who has been there: Ignore the imperfect work-life balance ratio and instead, check in with yourself and ask for help when you need it. Don’t add make it a rule you have to stretch yourself even thinner to abide by. After all, you already have to drink eight glasses of water.

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