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Work-Life Balance: can it be achieved?


The Pathfinder Career System (www.optimumtalent.com) says:

  • The formula for a successful, happy life requires achieving a well balanced life in which there is time for family, life-long learning and community service as well as work
  • Career should account for only 10% of our overall life satisfaction
  • Equally important (at 10% each) are:
    • Community (volunteering)
    • Culture (getting involved in the arts)
    • Environment (appreciating the outdoors)
    • Family (creating a vibrant home life)
    • Health (focusing on nutrition, fitness and sleep)
    • Learning (satisfying our curiosity)
    • Purpose (searching for the meaning of our own life)
    • Relaxation (giving ourselves permission to decompress) 
    • Social Life (entertaining family and friends)

Very few (any?) people will ever achieve work-life balance at one stage of their life but it is possible to see balance over a life-time.  So how can we come grips with the trade offs in life?  

I’m often asked to mediate this discussion between daughters and their mums, particularly when the daughter has become a new mum, needs/wants to return to work and expects her mum to provide (often free!) child minding services.

Gen Y-Zers are more focused on achieving work-life balance and don’t want to be as consumed with work as their Boomer parents were.  This is a good thing!  Specifically, young women don’t want to work full-time at their careers during the day and then come home to work full-time at their family lives during the evening.  They need and want help and support from their partners and family.  

We Boomers have too often let our professional identities define who we are and control our lives.  Many of us went through contortions  trying to be the best partner, parent, subject matter expert at work, MBA student, fashionista, gourmet chef, home decorator…I, for one, discovered Wonder Woman didn’t exist at my house, a humbling experience!

For those parents who “need” to return to work for a bigger home, more mod-cons, another car, RRSP’s, RESP’s, etc.,  crunch the numbers first.  Forbes magazine reported that it now (2012) costs $235,000 to raise a child…before college or university.  When you actually map out your ”money in” (are there any changes in your tax status?) vs. “money out” (what new costs do you have, e.g. daycare, an additional vehicle, timesavers like eating out more often, house cleaners, pet walkers, lawn and snow care, etc.) it may not be what you initially thought.  Are you really ahead, e.g. able to pay down your mortgage more quickly or are you behind?    

For those parents who “want” adult stimulation, perhaps volunteering or returning to school for a certificate, diploma or degree would be more valuable than returning to work while allowing time to see those first steps, hear those first words.

Many grandparents feel they’ve raised their own children and, much as they want to be part of their grandchildren’s lives, they don’t want to feel obliged to provide child minding services 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week.  They finally have the time to do all those things that got lost in the shuffle while they were working and raising their own families.    

So it’s important for each one of us to take the time to determine what’s important…at each stage of our lives. What do happiness and success look like for us?  How can we plan to achieve that rather than fly by the seat of our pants and hope it all works out?  What compromises are we able and willing to make?

We spend so much time on things that are urgent that we have none left for those that are important”. 

It is possible to “get a life”!