Work-Life Balance

July 27, 2010

The truth is that no matter where we are along the life path, we all struggle. I have come to the realization that women who finally appear to achieve some semblance of balance just happen to come across this great knowledge and ability around the time their children are grown.

I recently attended a leadership program for women in the early part of a career in academic medicine. It was enormously refreshing to spend time with accomplished women who face the same challenges I do - how to fit in time for a haircut, what to do with the boxes and boxes of art projects produced by your kindergartner, learning to say no to both extra personal and professional obligations.

In one session, titled “Work-Life Balance,” we eagerly sat around the conference room table as the speakers introduced themselves. With rapt attention, we waited for “it.” The answer. How to “have it all” without losing your mind, your marriage, and your health in the process. 

Unfortunately, the speakers, while experienced in this challenging juggle between personal and professional demands, didn’t know the answer either. We discussed the paths they took. We problem solved the challenges on each of our own plates in small groups. There were a few unique ideas out there - use the nanny to sort through art projects that can be recycled versus those that should be kept forever, hire a student in fashion school to organize your wardrobe into easy-to-complete outfits, just allow the gray hair to take over.

But, the truth is that no matter where we are along the life path, we all struggle. I have come to the realization that women who finally appear to achieve some semblance of balance just happen to come across this great knowledge and ability around the time their children are grown.

Certainly, their experience counts for something and they have lots of practice balancing multiple, competing demands. However, their lives, like mine, are not static. As they learn to balance the professional and the personal, the personal demands (as well as the professional) often change. This gives me hope.

I realize that one day what my children need from me will be different. My constant focused attention will not always be required. There will be time for leisurely dinners with my husband, golf lessons, adult-only vacations. For now, though, I relish the constant “Mommy, look at this,” the tiny fingers always seeking to grab my hand or my hair, and the role that is mine alone to fill.