by MIA FREEDMAN
There are two types of people: those who’d keep working if they won Lotto and those who wouldn’t. Me, I’d work. Is it bad to admit that? Am I betraying some unwritten code that states work is a drag and leisure the ultimate goal?
This same code also says every parent (read: mother) should aspire to give up their career to spend more time with their family. Actresses (never actors) are always sprouting off in interviews about how much they want to quit Hollywood to stay home with their kids and yet they never do. I suspect this is because they love their work and their kids. Which is fine. Me too. So why is that something to be denied or played down like a shameful secret?
Wait, I know. It’s because we’re all meant to be reaching for work/life balance with a moral emphasis on the life part. And my hand is up. Hell, I’m a Libra. Looking for balance is MY ASTROLOGICAL JOB.
But I have a few issues with it. First of all, it’s a pretty indulgent concept. To strive for work/life balance you need to have (a) employment and (b) a nice life. Not everyone is so lucky. The guy who works two jobs to put food on the table or the single mother who just got laid off….well, I wonder how often they Google “How Can I Achieve Work/Life Balance?”
Sometimes the pressure to be balanced can itself become a burden. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed – it’s my default state – but at certain times in your life, balance is an impossiblity. My husband and I run our own start-up web publishing business that’s in a major growth phase. It’s hectic. This week while trying to organise a Skype meeting with someone, he asked me “Which shift are we talking, day or night? My day shift finishes at 6pm, night shift starts at 8pm.”
I hear you, brother. That’s my life at the moment, hence the overwhelm. (Note: I now feel a pressing need to tell you how much time I spend with my kids so you don’t mutter ‘bad mother’ while shaking your head in faux concern. I DO spend a lot of time with my kids but those spinning plates on sticks are constantly smashing to the ground and I’ve grown quite used to the sound of broken crockery. )
Not everyone is seeking that elusive balance. There’s a hidden subculture of people who actually enjoy devoting most of their waking hours to work. When you’re lucky enough to do something you love, boundaries between work and play blur. And sometimes that makes observers uncomfortable.
A girlfriend was forced to defend herself last year when she sent some work emails from hospital two days after giving birth to her third child. “I didn’t have to but I wanted to” she explained each time her email generated an ‘Are-You-Mad?!’ response. “If I enjoy my work, how is it different to watching TV or reading a book?”