Is “Work-Life Balance” Impossible? And Why Does it Matter?

Peace at Home March 21, 2024 | Ruth Freeman

With the lines between work and home forever blurred, the challenges faced by working parents have been magnified. And the very mention of “Work-Life Balance” can send parents into hysterical laughter or hopeless resignation. Some call it “Work-Life Blend” these days since technology invites work into home life in ways we never imagined. This problem is exasperated by the prevalence of mental health issues in both kids and parents which have escalated since the pandemic. 53% of working parents have their work disrupted by their children’s mental health concerns and that’s just a piece of the complex pediatric mental health story. With regard to work life, company culture often leads working parents to believe that in order to succeed, they have to be available for work demands far beyond typical work hours. 

So let’s talk. 

At Peace At Home Parenting, we have a bias about priorities. Strong, positive relationships between children and their parents are powerful protectors of children’s mental health. Those relationships take time and attention and, frankly, at times can be tedious, boring, confusing, and challenging. Depending on our own childhood experience and on the struggles that our children are facing, these relationships can  sometimes be painful. But kids need those connections in order to thrive and we need to do our best to carve out space and time to make them happen. 

The good news is the evidence that creating clear work-life boundaries helps both families and employers. A report from the National Institute of Health says: Companies that provide family support, help employees thrive by differentiating work and family. Employees learn to isolate themselves from work in time and space, enjoy family life with pleasure and efficiency, then return to work the next day with positive anticipation, thus achieving a win–win situation in both the work and family spheres.  

So the evidence suggests that the “Work-Life Blend” isn’t not an ideal goal, but boundaries are the way to go both for your family and your work life. Here are some suggestions from professionals that have achieved some degree of meaningful balance:

  • Manage technology. Turn off notifications on your phone while with your family and keep your computer closed unless “at work.” Constant connectivity can blur the boundaries between work and non-work activities in ways that harm both work and family as well as yourself.
  • Lean into routines – they calm the brain. Consistent morning and evening routines for kids signal safety to the brain and strengthen the feeling of belonging. Routines and transitions are just as important for adults. Consider creating simple routines to transition from each part of your day.
  • Manage expectations. Working parents are often caught in conflicts between work and family demands. These can be better balanced when employees clearly understand their deliverables, key performance indicators, and how to prioritize work. Every employee should be clear about when they are being successful and free to ask for guidance if demands begin to exceed practical capacities. At home, forget about everyone’s perfect family posts on Facebook and pay no attention to those Hallmark movie scenes. Family life doesn’t always look pretty or perfect. Messy is normal and good enough is good enough. 
  • Recognize your negative self-talk and the pressure you put on yourself related to work and family. You may perform at work or at home, for example, as if everything is urgent because you don’t actually understand priorities. While this may be gratifying to managers in the short run, if unchecked over time this approach leads to burnout and losing some of the company’s best professionals. At home this kind of internal pressure is a barrier to positive relationships and being the calm center that your children need in our unpredictable world. 

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