“Good-Enough” Work-Family Balance

Do you often find yourself wondering whether you are doing what’s right for everyone involved in your life?  Susan Burns authored a blog post on Leslie Morgan Steiner’s Washington Post on Balance where she illustrated this dilemma that many of us face.  It’s important to prioritize your values and beliefs so that you don’t feel like you are compromising areas of your life. The key to finding balance and fulfillment is by defining the life you want to live and then creating that life and lifestyle in support of your beliefs and values.

Susan Burns offers an excellent guest post on Leslie Morgan Steiner’s Washington Post On Balance blog. This provides a real-life case study on what we’re all facing in some way: wondering whether or not we’re doing what’s right for all involved in our lives.

In addition, Ms. Burns, an associate professor of civil engineering, illustrates a dilemma many of us face: that of wondering whether the life we’re living is as well-balanced and fulfilled as it should be.

Ms. Burns enjoys her career very much, but works long, hard hours and tags on a long commute to either end of her working day. In an effort to balance their lives and make themselves available to their children, she and her husband made the decision that he would stay at home after their second child was born.Ms. Burns is able to spend time with her kids weekday evenings and the family is together on the weekends, but evidence is mounting that the children’s’ needs aren’t being met by her. They miss their Mom and cling to her upon her return in the evening.

In her post’s final paragraph, Ms. Burns opines that she and her husband felt that they had made all the possible compromises and had a good balance between work and home. In conclusion, she wonders: “What else can I do? Do I just trust that my kids will be okay in the long run? How does everyone else handle a seemingly good-enough work/family compromise that doesn’t completely meet your kids’ needs?”

I applaud Ms. Burns for her taking a look at the external factors in her life – her job and commute, her husband’s job, her family. Now, I cannot possibly know exactly what her life is like, nor would I presume to offer advice without knowing much, much more. But, as a case study, it’s now time for her to examine the internal factors.

She obviously loves her work and her family. Now is the time to identify and prioritize her values and beliefs so that she no longer feels that things are a “compromise.” What might not feel quite right to Ms. Burns is that “seemingly good enough work/family compromise” that she spoke of.

The work life balance that we’re all seeking, whether we’re aware of it or not, is one where we live in harmony – where there is little or no contradiction between our values and beliefs and our actions. When we value family above all else, but become workaholics or prisoners to success in our work lives, we cannot find peace of mind because we are constantly fighting – we feel guilty that things will eventually work out in the long run or that we’re losing time that we can never reclaim.

Slowly, but almost always surely, we become detached from that one thing that’s most important to us.

The answer is simple but not always easy to implement: we need to define the life that we want to live and create that life and lifestyle in support of our values and beliefs. That’s where we’ll find both balance and fulfillment.

Leslie Morgan Steiner’s Washington Post On Balance blog can be viewed here.

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