I don’t think we go an entire week, or maybe even an entire day, without thinking about work/life balance. We hear about it from HR departments, on the news, from our spouses (especially when talking about after school care for kids), and from ourselves – usually in the form of guilt.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. See for the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been traveling to clients conducting training sessions. So for 13 out of the last 17 days, I have either left my house before my kids were even up, not getting back until 6:30 pm or I was gone for multiple nights.
“But Megan, you’re supposed to be The Naptime CEO, what happened to working from home and being there to get your kids on and off the school bus?”
Well, I never claimed to be a work from home mom, even though I do a lot of my work in my home office. But I have to say, these past two and a half weeks have reminded me what it was like when I worked full-time for someone else. And it makes my heart break for all those parents out there who are doing this week in and week out, month in and month out. Because for them, I think work/life balance is a myth. Sure, maybe you can leave an hour early here or go in an hour late there. Maybe you even have the flexibility to work from home on occasion. But for the most part, if you’re not at work between the main hours of 9 am and 4 pm consistently, you’re going to have to answer to someone about it.
I don’t think what HR and the media promotes is work/life balance. They may have good intentions, but really what they’re promoting is how to squeeze a bit of your life into your work day every once in a while so you think you have some semblance of balance. I’m sorry, but 50 hours Monday through Friday at work, versus – if you’re lucky – 10 hours with your kids doesn’t sound very balanced to me.
“But Megan, they’re in school most of the day.”
True, but not that much. My kids are home from school by 3 pm during the school year. Being there when they get home versus when I would get home from my corporate job is a difference of 3.5 hours every afternoon. That’s an extra 17.5 hours a week!
So, here’s my point… I think work/life balance can only exist if you own your own business. As long as you work for someone else, your work will always demand more of your time than you can give to your family during the week. As a business owner, I have much more control over where and how I invest my time. These past two and a half weeks, sure, it was nearly all work focused; but, next week I’m only working one day, then come June when my kids are out of school, I’m taking three of the four weeks off. I will still work (I love what I do) but it will be early in the morning or later at night when my kids are asleep.
As a business owner, my clients don’t care if I work on their project at 9 am or 9 pm, as long as I deliver the project on time. They don’t care if I do the work on a Saturday or Tuesday, in Pittsburgh or on the beach. I’m convinced the only way you can design a life that your work fits into (vs. squeezing your life around your work) is through entrepreneurship.
If you’ve been thinking about or wishing that you had more flexibility in your schedule or that you had more balance in your life then you need to look at working for yourself instead of someone else.
What do you think? Am I wrong? Have you found a job that gives you the flexibility you want?