A few months ago I attended a huge women’s conference with some of the most powerful women on the planet speaking. So I sat in on a panel of experts discussing work-life integration to see what wisdom I could glean from business owners and CEO’s. Some of what was spoken on this panel made me want to run screaming from the sardine can of an overcrowded conference room.
When the panel started with introductions, one COO started by saying in her strung out voice “I’ve only had 4 hours of sleep over the last two days.” I thought – why the hell should I be listening to you about work-life integration? In my opinion the panel only got worse from there.
If we were truly discussing how to have it all at the right time, I would have expected some wisdom from successful women who have found a way of being at the top of their professional game while also having a personal life they love. Instead, with the exception of the one panelist who was real and offered valuable insights, I found myself desperately wanting to rush the stage and give the others a slap and wake-up call.
It pained me deeply to see a room of several hundred women hanging on the words of a few overworked business owners as if what they spoke was gospel and held the keys to their own sweet yearnings for a career and life that works, particularly those working mothers.
As I listened to their stories, what I really wanted to know is:
- Why do women have to get to the point of breaking before they cry out for help or are willing to set a boundary?
- How can you possibly call it work-life balance to go to work early, come home early to catch your child’s event and then spend all night into the wee hours working once again?
- Why do you have to be available at all hours just because you need a flexible work schedule? What are you trying to compensate for?
- When did saying No become heresy and a career death sentence?
Story after story of working constantly and showing up at their children’s events only to have their face buried in the mobile device with work made me shake my head. The one panelist even shared that her own son would ask her after his football games – why are you still working instead of watching my game? This comment made her feel guilty so she stopped looking at her phone and her son really took notice as it mattered a lot to him. Yet she shared her choice with all the regret of a drug addict missing their hit.
When did work-life balance become a thinly veiled term for trying to have it all by never really being present for any of it?
The truth is there is no such thing as a perfect state of balance in nature. It is simply a continual state of change that trends towards a state of apparent balance. Our bodies internal systems release or withhold chemicals and hormones based on the environment at hand to stay in homeostasis. Even when we stand in a balancing pose in yoga we are not in a static state. We are constantly making micro movements (and sometimes large arm flailing movements) to stay balanced and not fall over onto the person on the mat next to us.
So why do we think there should be some perfect state of balance in our work or personal lives?
Work and life are about rhythm. Integration. Flow. Choices. If you choose this, then you can’t have that (at least not right now). You can have it all, just not all at the same time. Think Las Vegas buffet. You really can have any of this food you want, but not all at the same meal or you will implode. If you come back tomorrow, however you can eat at the Asian buffet section that you skipped today.
I implore you expert, successful, C-women, power listers out there who don’t have free time for yourself and have all but internally wired your mobile devices to your nervous system– stop sitting on these panels letting your workaholic dysfunction become the picture that gets painted as “work-life balance”!
I want to hear from perfectly imperfect successful women who know how to say a positive No and surf the ever-changing wave of work and life priorities in a REAL way. Those of you who handle competing priorities gracefully at times and less-so at others; who know that it’s more important to watch your child’s event with the cell phone turned off than it is to be “on”; who are willing to dare greatly in a Brene Brown sort of way, allowing your human-ness to shine and your well-earned wisdom to gently guide and inspire other women to do the same.
Now THAT is a conversation worth having.
Could you use some encouragement and practical solutions for having a greater felt sense of balance and the courage to make the choices you really want to make? Click here to have a discovery session to explore how I can help you find a work/life integration that really works.