For me it has evolved over the years. When I was younger it meant being able to take a half day on Friday’s so I could get a head start on my weekend drinking. It also meant being able to come in a couple hours late because of a case of the “brown bottle flu.” See the trend there..? When I got married (and before kids) it meant being able to take week long trips to places around the world… or as far as we could afford to go, which was usually Ohio-ish.
Now-a-days it’s all about the kids. Work-life balance means being able to work from home when the kids are sick, taking time away to go to the beach and being able to leave for a couple hours to go on a field trip or an in-class activity. (That last one is what inspired this article)
Over the years I have worked at companies where I was expected to always be there … like all of the time. I may have actually had a bed at one job.
I am the leader of the department
They made a huge investment in me
We don’t have anyone else to do the work
This has to get done today
These were all the things that went through my mind at these jobs. Vacations were always hard to come by and the only balancing being done was the workload on nights and weekends to try and make the next week not suck. It was brutal and it was what I “invested” into these companies thinking there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The joke was on me as the only light I saw was the one on my desk working late nights (see what I did there).
So last year I made a tough (but easy) decision to get back into contract work. With a growing family the uncertainty of the “what’s next” contract world was a little scary. Consulting means short term projects and contract work where I get paid hourly and am always lining up the next contract/project. While this “life” does have its stresses, the silver lining is that I am my own boss and I can create my own “balance.”
Fast forward back to today…
All of this work life balance and why it’s important hit me like a semi-truck today. I took a 2.5 hour lunch so I could participate in a “spring into reading” event at my 4 year old’s school. Basically just reading her stories and then building stuff with candy – see below. (It’s a bunny car if you couldn’t tell ). As I was sitting in a large room waiting for the kids to arrive from class (checking my work emails of course) I suddenly see my little Teagan come into the room and just light up. She ran to me, gave me the biggest hug and was so excited to see me. As I started to read her favorite book, I looked at her and see that she is just staring at me. Face flushed with color, eyes glossed and smiling from ear to ear. I have never, I mean NEVER seen her that happy and filled with love. It was one of those special moments that I will never forget, and to be honest I had to fight back the tears (…because they were chopping onions there… it was totally the onions!).
Today confirmed what I want when I think of a work-life balance. I want to be there for my kids, and be a huge presence in their lives. I want all the stressful field trips, the bake sales, the fun science projects… all of it. I want my kids to look back and know that I was there for them. I want them to read this when they are older and know that I chose them.
Don’t get me wrong… I love to work, like LOVE TO WORK. I have a strange addiction to it to be honest. But I won’t let it run my life. Instead I am going to make it work for me. Does that mean contract work and being my own boss forever? Maybe… All I know is that I will never take a job that doesn’t allow for the work-life balance that is important to me.
To the people (or company’s) that I work for now and in the future, I have a message for you. I want you to know that giving me balance will only make me better at my job, and I thank you for understanding what drives me. I will reward you beyond measure for giving me the one thing that truly makes me whole, time with my family.
What gives you balance?
What “benefits” are must have’s for you when working for a company?