work-life balance is a false choice

Creative Commons License photo credit: pshutterbug

Everyone understands that being engaged in your work, life, family and self is key to a happy life. Nobody thinks that you’ll be perfectly fulfilled without a balance – everyone needs to be happy with their family, but you also need outside interests. Everyone needs to feel like they are a contributing member of both a family and a society. It’s not an easy balance for most of us.

I struggle with it – I make good money but I still have less free time during the week than I’d like. Bubelah struggles with it, too – she spends a lot of time devoted to child care now that we have two kids, although having my son in preschool has helped. This imbalance is something many single-income families face, because the roles end up being so sharply divided.

Yet at the same time most of us feel that we have to struggle with work/life balance. You will not gain financial independence quickly as an employee.  Employees are performing a straight-up swap of their time for money; the possibility to increase the money-to-time ratio is at the employer’s discretion, never the employee’s. If you want to be rich and therefore gain some measure of independence in your financial choices – and therefore in your life, you have to start a business or buy real estate or become a person who understands the market in its current sickly state. Alternative income is key to building wealth. But I am not just talking about figuring out a way to get rich.

Why is it that we view work/life balance as a struggle, a conflict to be resolved? I worry about it more than I worry about most things in my life – and I’m a worrier by nature – but I am trying increasingly to focus not so much on work/life balance but on how to move towards integrating work and life together in the future. I don’t think balance is truly possible. If you work a long commute away from home, most of your waking time is spent away from “life.” If you spend all of your time at home, it’s hard to develop your career or interests. Again, figuring out a way to get away from selling your time for money is key. The key is not to strive for balance, but to find work you enjoy and can integrate with your “life,” instead of working hard then retiring early, or thinking that working an eight-hour day with a three-hour commute and having a few hours at home is balance. Figuring out a way to do it in a blended way is better than trying to figure out a balanced way – because if you sell your time for money, there will never be balance.