The Myth of Work/Life Balance
By Teresa Taylor
Following a keynote speech on creating a unique customer experience, I was approached by a guest who asked, “How do you do it?”
As I started re-summarizing my speech, she interrupted and said, “No, no, no. How do you balance your work and home life? You seem like you have it so together!”
I have been asked that question endless times, and as my career advanced to the corner office, men and women became even more inquisitive.
The truth is, my answer has always been the same: There is no such thing as “balance.” Life is not a zero sum game or an equation that needs to be solved. You do not have to choose between being a great wife and mother and being a career woman. The answers you are looking for are not in some magic checklist, but rather within yourself, if you will just take the time to look for them. But you also must have the confidence to reach for them and believe they’ll be there.
In recent months, this subject has been talked about in every office, home, blog, and media outlet. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has taken the conversation to a whole new level, and kudos to her! She is encouraging women to participate, raise their hand, and “lean in.” I know many women who do just that—but they still go home at night , and grade themselves a “C” for their performance at work and home. Erin Callen, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers, in a New York Times article shared her heartfelt story of how she “leaned in” too much and forgot who she was.
Neither answered the question, “How can I have success at work and home?” I couldn’t take the mother out of the career or the career out of the mother, and I don’t think you should either. You can use both to your advantage.
Searching for the mythical “balance” leads to frustration, guilt, and disappointment—causing career women to step back or step out of their company. At one point, I believed I could not go on anymore: My career was demanding and my two boys needed me; I must choose one or the other. I loved my work, my husband, and my children, and I could not find peace with it all.
What I needed was one life and one calendar! So, that is what I did. I integrated, instead of bifurcated. I took my home skills to the office, and I took my office skills home. Yes, I took my boys to the office on Sunday morning when nobody was there and, yes, I sometimes had strategy meetings in my house.
You really can’t have success in one area of your life without having success in the others. Above all, make your home life a priority. If your personal life is a mess, you’ll never be your best at work.
Stop striving for “balance” and live! It is OK if the kids order out pizza once a week and you send store-bought cupcakes to the school event. And you can turn off your iPhone for an hour—work will still be there.
Teresa Taylor is a former COO of Qwest Communications and author of “The Balance Myth—Rethinking Work-Life Success.” To learn more, visit: http://www.teresataylor.org