I truly believe that work-life balance is a myth—at least, in the long-term. One might achieve it for short bursts here and there, but in general I think it's less about balance and more about juggling. Some times, the only balls that stay in the air are the ones related to your job, the ones labeled "deadline" and "business meeting" and "massive project," and by the end of the day all you can do is make promises about tomorrow being better. Other times, the most important meeting on your schedule is the one with your child's teacher or the daytime date with your spouse—or you're tapping away on the computer with one hand while holding a sick child on your lap, or trying to write a blog post with "Phineas and Ferb" blaring in the background (ahem).
The other day, I was trying to finish an assignment while my daughter was sitting next to me on the couch. I had my laptop open, and she was hunched over the coffee table, drawing and humming a tune that sounded a lot like "Bingo."
When I scooted closer to her on the couch to get a peek at what she was doing, I discovered that she had made up new words to go along with the song. And had made an illustrated guide to the new lyrics (spelled phonetically, of course—she's only in kindergarten).
There was a girl who worked a lot
and Lylah was her name-o
L-Y-L-A-H, L-Y-L-A-H, L-Y-L-A-H
and Lylah was her name-o!
I thought I was doing a pretty good job of getting out of work mode and morphing into Mama mode during the window between school pick-up and bedtime. But apparently not.
I do work a lot. My kids know that I love what I do, and they know that I try hard to be fully present when I'm with them, but they also know that I stay up late to get all my work done, even if they don't see me at my desk because they're already asleep.
A few weekends ago, I had to research a local travel story for The Boston Globe and brought them along, asking for their opinions and observations. I thought they would get a kick out of "helping Mama work." And they did. But they also came away with the impression that, even when I'm out having fun with them, I'm still on the clock. That I am always working.
That's not how I want them to think work is. But how do you underscore the importance of working to live, not living to work, when your main work-life juggling trick is to do both at the same time?