Keeping balance at work while home
Scrolling through Facebook the other evening, I ran across a post from someone who doesn't post often. That kind of post tends to stop me in my tracks, because they usually have something profound to say. This post was no exception. The writer is a friend and colleague whom I admire and adore. She's one of those people who always seems put together and even-keeled. Say that to her, though, and she'll tell you she's like a duck: graceful and serene on the surface, paddling like hell underwater.
Her Facebook post tackled an issue we haven't talked much about in this #WFH adventure. It was raw and frayed and beautifully written.
She's an executive.
She's a mom.
She feels like she's failing miserably at both.
Her children, who are typically well-situated over the summer in camps and other activities are stuck at home with little to do that doesn't involve screen time. Now, we all know screen time is the devil, right? It's going to rewire our kids' brains and turn them into zombies who never leave home, can't form relationships and talk with their mouths full. I mean, society tells us that if we want our kids to succeed, we must engage their brains with scholarly pursuits in every moment that they're not playing elite sports, doing community service, starting their next entrepreneurial venture or sleeping. So in addition to trying to work a full day, my friend is desperately looking for ways to keep her kids happy and engaged — and away from the devil. It's what she would be spending her nights and weekends working on, if she had nights and weekends, which she doesn't because, as we've talked about before, work and life have run together to make one giant mess of goo.
Instead, she sits on the couch in the dark, a spoon in one hand, Ben & Jerry's in the other, wondering where she'll find room for the kids when they move home after college.
Oh, sure. She's keeping up with her essential and most visible work, getting it done and done well. But the above-and-beyond? The extra bits that are her stock-in-trade? They're piling up in the corner, along with all that stuff she'll get to when she has more time. So, actually, never. She makes it to every meeting but is less attentive than she should be, her ears pricked for sibling tussles and cross words. She ticks off her to-do list every day but only because she's careful about what she puts on it. Committing to less work means she can be there when a knee gets skinned or someone won't share the remote. During the school year, things were better. Teachers, though virtual, held sway over some of the kids' day so she could focus on work. These days, she can only focus — really focus — after the sun sets and the kids are in bed. Then, exhausted and bleary-eyed, she can bask in the eerie glow of her computer screen and eat her Ben & Jerry's in peace. Good news Before the world shut down, experts said our kids need a break. The older ones are over scheduled, they said. Under too much pressure to perform. Striving to meet too many stretch goals. Not getting enough down time. Definitely not getting enough sleep. The younger ones, they said, are moving so fast to meet the developmental milestones that will earn them a place at Harvard that they don't have time to be, well, kids. If I were a glass-half-full kind of girl, I'd say Covid-19 has given them all a chance to slow down, catch up and recharge. Sure, they're not translating Homer, dissecting frogs or teaching themselves long division, but their brains are charging after running in low-battery mode for far too long.
And the experts have plenty to say about us, too. That we're too harried, too distracted, pulled in too many directions, way overworked. They contend we don't have enough down time, family time, me time. There's a reason #selfcare became a social media darling. Are we knocking it out of the park at work these days? Maybe, but probably not. Most people I know are doing what needs to be done, and calling it a day. Which is probably what we should have been doing all along. My friend's Facebook post laid bare her weary, guilt-ridden truth: That she can neither have it all nor give it all. But if she forces herself to make good choices, she can have and give what is most important. As this #WFH adventure drags on, that feels like the right goal.
By Beth Hunt – Director of editorial recruiting and development, American City Business Journals,