How Do We Rethink Work-Life Balance in 2021?
We live in a society that places a high value on work. It is not just a necessity to put food on the table, but it is also tied up in how we think of ourselves and how we create a meaningful life. This is not altogether a negative thing, but it can become a problem when work comes are the expense of other aspects of our life. During pandemic life, many parents have taken on additional work as the role of teacher, virtual class monitor, or even as a kind of nurse if their children are in school or doing a hybrid model. The reality of juggling two or more jobs, even if one doesn’t exactly come with an official paycheck, has put the strain on many of us.
Past discussions of work-life-balance don’t seem applicable currently as many of these work-life boundaries have become blurred. These past ideas of balance seem to suggest that everything needs to be weighed out and equal to everything else. This is not usually possible, and as a result, a search for this kind of balance can create more tension. The truth is, we only have so much energy to expend in a day. If life is asking us to work full-time, raise our children, and take on additional education roles in the wake of school closures, something will likely need to give.
For many parents, the first thing that often goes out the window is self-care. However, as we emphasized in our Making Time Work for You post, taking time for one’s self might be way one parents can stay afloat as life continues to demand so much from them. Another helpful strategy might be to redefine what balance looks like to you. Maybe you won’t be able to dedicate time each day to everything you want to do, but even giving half an hour to self-care or free time might help you recharge so that you can tackle other more demanding tasks.
Another way to think of balance is in terms of achieving harmony. Individual elements may not be equal, but together, they can balance each other out and achieve a functional harmony. For example, it may not be realistic to ask yourself each day to perform the best at work, be the more engaging homeschool teacher, workout for an hour each day, read for thirty minutes a day, stick to the meal plan, and so on. However, you might be able to shift things in your life so that you are making more realistic progress in the areas that you value most over time. Perhaps you ask work if you can work four ten-hour shifts so that you are able to spend a whole day catching up on other areas of your life. You could try to have one night a week where the family doesn’t watch TV or have phones at the table so that you are getting some dedicated family time. The next time you get frazzled helping out with math homework, invite your child to join you on a quick mindfulness walk to reset.
We can’t do it all, every day, all the time. Placing the emphasis on doing activities that align with our family’s or individual set of values helps sustain us when the going gets tough. Be kind to yourself and those in your household as you experiment with trying to spend time in ways that serve you, your family, and your values more fully.
For additional ideas on balance and harmony, check out the following resources: