I haven’t yelled at the television for so long. It is a trait I picked up from my now departed grandfather who was completely unable to watch the six o’clock news without swearing at stories about politicians. But last week, as I watched a media celebrity promote her new book, theatrically confirming that work life balance is impossible, I found myself aiming a verbal barrage at the idiot box before then deciding to just turn it off.
I was yelling things along the line of, “Maybe stop booking yourself into so many television slots and just go home to your family and your couch” as she continued to say that no woman could ever expect to achieve any balance in perverse glee. What a message, I thought. Go on national television and be the spokesperson for ‘If you are a woman your life is going to be nothing but fucked up and very busy.’ And yes, for many women is it but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Whinging about anything conveniently distracts us from actually doing anything about said stuff we are whinging about. As long as we can continue on the path of ‘woe is me’ we are locked in a position where nothing changes nor gets any better. The Western world economy now depends on women taking up work amidst the backdrop of still being the primary carers for children, and often non-contributing partners, as well as ageing parents, while still being the ones making the meals and riding the vacuum to the place of ‘where did my life go?’ hell.
The real things that come with no balance around your job and your life include:
- Having no real idea as to how you ended up being this person in the mirror
- Too tired, worried, disengaged (list your own words) to have sex/a conversation/time (continue to list your own words) with your partner
- Not seeing your kids, having quality time with them or knowing their needs
- A keen desire for bedtime because you are exhausted
- Booking your friends in to see them
- Dealing with ongoing anxiety as you worry about all the things you need to do
- A sense of being overwhelmed which then makes you a pain in the arse person who stresses out other people
- A to-do list which never ends because it keeps you in your known cycle of drama, which sometimes is better than change, because that is bad, isn’t it?
- Big. Shitty. Regrets.
If you stop being outraged by the lack of work life balance and commit to making changes in your life then you are part the way there. Around all of this is the undeniable curse of money which often dictates long hours, an arduous commute and an unnatural love affair with our email accounts after children have gone to bed. It’s ridiculous, right? So where do we start to unravel all of this tangled responsibility and woven in guilt? You start by understanding what is enough for you.
Finding out, for your own individual self, what is enough means you take a good hard look at what you need. Not anyone else, not the kids, not the high- powered job or the energy sucking friend or your partner, just you. Remember you? When you were younger, when you had your dreams alive and you were telling people how it was going to be? When you were curious and learning to be in your skin as your dreams spun you around and gave you hope. My friend, all of that is still in you but you just went to sleep. And I am not surprised, it’s exhausting being a woman. It always has been.
Finding out what is enough is about putting boundaries around things in your life. It’s about actively questioning your own decisions about how you found yourself in this position like any of the following:
- How satisfied am I with my life and what would I like to change?
- Why do I do this job?
- How much money do I really need to earn?
- How can I reduce my responsibilities to gain more time to do things I want to do?
- Who can pitch in and help me more?
- What can I say no to when I usually say yes?
- What do I really enjoy doing and how do I remove myself from the things which don’t fulfil me
- What is the breakup of my daily waking hours and how satisfied am I with how I spend my time?
- Am I serious about this bullshit commute I put up with every day?
The questions are endless but if you are not asking them you’re just in a modern-day coma where you’re the hostage.
And here lies the key, ladies. The system of work is designed to keep you thinking that it is something you must do, in the way they want you to do it and you are powerless to change it. I’m talking paid work and all the stuff you carry in the home. Time to start using that very powerful word called ‘No’.
Time to redesign the lay of the land. Make one step forward, then the next. Just don’t keep killing yourself with yet another task to complete.
It’s not going to happen overnight but it will happen (to use the old adage) if you at least start to create the boundaries around your time and responsibilities. Yes, I cannot guarantee you won’t struggle with some type of guilt (we are born with this genetic defect) but people will get used to your new requirements in time, including you.
And yes, I have balance. I have spent my life making sure of it. I have designed my life, my work, my interest around conserving it. Why? Because it makes me a better person for not only myself but for those I love and cherish. That makes it totally worth it, on all counts.