For me, work/life balance is a constant struggle, perhaps because I never want to miss out on anything. When our family just consisted of my husband and me, work/life balance was a snap: We worked. A lot. When we added our first little one into the mix earlier this year, things became considerably more complicated. Suddenly being on the road 17 days a month for my job didn't seem quite so glamorous. Life changes, priorities shift, and the beauty is in how we adapt.
I am lucky. I have an amazing business partner, a supportive husband, and the opportunity to launch a business that I know will help people just like us organize the chaos. Leaving my corporate job didn't alleviate the work/life balance struggle but what it did do was force me to reevaluate what work/life balance actually means to me.
What I have found is the concept of wanting to do something entrepreneurial and wanting to have balance is diametrically opposed.
There is a lot of information and opinions that have surfaced in recent years that aim to give people a roadmap to the ever-elusive work/life balance. But this state of so called work/life Zen remains, for most of us—myself included—unattainable.
Why? Because most families have both of the adults maintaining full time jobs, managing children and aging parents, bills, and all the everyday life occurrences. How can we be anything other than stressed? The myths that lead us to believe that if we just work hard enough we can have it all have led us to place even more pressure on ourselves and our spouses to be all things to all people at all times. Impossible? Yes. But with a little self awareness of some of these myths and their realities, we might just be able to find a little Zen in spite of it all.
Myth One: Work Is Bad for You
I’m not quite sure how we have come to believe that work is negative and that we need to minimize the amount of time we spend focused on our chosen profession. Work is one of the major avenues where we all seek achievement. Arguments for a simplistic definition of balance devalue the work in work/life balance.
As an entrepreneur, my work is born out of something I love and believe in. It is part of who I am and hopefully my passion will provide many teaching moments for my daughter. The main one, I hope, will be that it is good to be brave.
It takes courage to leave a company and pursue an entrepreneurial venture—courage, focus and time. Which is why it is so important that I strive to think of work/life balance as less of a balance and more of a happiness. Some weeks the 80 hours I put in yields a professional achievement that leaves me full of pride. Other weeks it’s a walk in the park and reading at night with my daughter that fills me with gratitude. No two days are the same and no two days will be balanced the same. Work is a major piece of who we are, a piece that ideally brings us pride and a sense of gratitude—one we should share with our families when we can.
Myth Two: Becoming an Entrepreneur Gives You More Free Time to Balance Your Life
The reality is that if you are doing something you love and you have a vested interest in it, you cannot just turn work off and on. It is impossible to manage a 50-50 split between work and home. At some point in the late ‘80s there was the school of thought that touted 8-8-8: eight hours of work, eight hours of family and private life, and eight hours of sleep. Ok, really?
In this time of a struggling economy, long commutes, and over-scheduled kids, I would love to meet the person who is able to only work eight hours a day. My nine-month-old daughter certainly didn’t get the memo on letting mom and dad sleep for eight hours a night!
So how to best handle this? It really is just organization. Think less about trying to do everything and focus your energy on what is really important. By managing your energy and focusing your attention throughout the day, you will be more productive and may even find a little free time to relax.
Myth Three: A Good Entrepreneur Is Always in Control
As much as we would always like to be in control it is inevitable that some days our clients, friends, and family will demand otherwise. Kids get sick and clients get angry, but being able to adjust quickly and with a sense of purpose will ultimately give your life a fluidity that will help deal with the stresses you’ll encounter.
The only constant is change. We live in a global market and as technology continues to progress, that change spreads faster than ever. We only need to look at the role of technology in business today: Facebook, Twitter, and even our recently launched site HatchedIt.com all are necessary tools to drive growth in an otherwise sluggish economy.
If you can set aside the need to be in control, use technology effectively, and welcome change, your life will not necessarily be more balanced but you will surely be better equipped to deal with the bumpy parts of the road, whether in your business or your family.
So as I sit at my kitchen table at 8:00 at night writing this, my nine-month-old daughter is crawling like a speed demon around the corner with my 12-year-old niece in tow. My co-founder is working on an email to our most recent users and my husband just walked in the door. Dinner is takeout and bills still need to be paid before tomorrow. I often feel that not a day goes by without life throwing me a curveball and there is certainly no balance in my life. There is, however, a great deal of happiness.