Work-life Balance, Is It Really Achievable?

Work-Life Balance … Is it really a thing? Lets’s see what the experts… and I say!

By Mary E Mahowald

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” 
— Alain de Botton

Work-Life Balance: The ideology

In its ideology, I think we often believe that someone who has a “perfect” work-life balance is truly equally amazing on all playing fields. Someone that does all of (or pick at least 12), of the things: work hard, play hard and have an active and thriving social life, healthy in mind and body, a good friend who makes time for everyone, a good family member who drops anything when their parent or sibling needs-or wants something, a fantastic mom or dad who spends all the quality time with their kids playing, and laughing and NEVER yells, a perfect homemaker who’s laundry is always neatly folded Marie Kondo style and who’s dust is nonexistent, a great room-parent that volunteers, and brings something homemade for each classroom event, or volunteer opportunity, someone that is active and volunteers in their community, a constant learner is who is amazing and informed on all aspects of their craft, an incredible spouse who gives all of themselves to their partner… the list could go on for days.

Totally doable, right? {Insert exhaustion here!}

WorkLife Balance: What Smart People Say 

Alright ya’ll, I may not be one of those amazingly, incredibly intelligent and gifted business minds, but I do follow them on their Podcasts and Social Media! In fact, I have become quite a junkie lately. I can’t tell you what songs are on the hot 100, or what happened in Game of Thrones last episode (or ever), but I can tell you who was on my girl Rachel Hollis’ Rise podcast last week, or who Rachel Cruze interviewed in the back of her car a few episodes ago, and I can almost predict Dave Ramsey’s answer to these fools that call in and ask Dave Ramsey about taking out a loan. Spoiler Alert, Dave will say “No,” in more colorful terms! 

“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The Pina and the Colada.” 

 Ellen DeGeneres (Seriously… I’m Kidding)
Pina Colada Work-Life Balance Mary E Mahowald

I Want the Pina and the Colada too!

One of my favorites follows is Dave Ramsey: He calls it a myth. He says that work-life balance isn’t really a thing that anyone can do, and do well. Dave says that you can only really focus on one thing at a time. At least on a daily basis.

But, if there is one thing that women tend to be better at than men, it’s multitasking, am I right?! You know, multitasking, where you do multiple things done at once, and none of them are extraordinarily exceptional. Oh… I see… perhaps he has a point here.

His approach is that each day is not balanced perfectly, but that each day our focus shifts a bit to what is most important or pressing that, but overall the thing that we focus on, the things that we continue to practice and work towards, and make habitual are the things that we really win. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to win?

“Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”

 Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)
Can’t we all go back to kindergarten? 

But, Is it Attainable?

See above. I think that oftentimes our ideology, and thought process is flawed. That we focus far too much on this perfect and unattainable ideal, the actual result that we see, rather than the work, and the number of people and helping hands that it took to get there, that we burn ourselves out reaching for this so-called perfection! Especially if we are trying to do it solo! 

Life has become so DIY that many of us feel like a failure, or a fraud if we ask for, or even pay for help. Self-made has become such a catchphrase that anything less seems simply unacceptable. 

The truth behind success is that so many successes had help getting there. That doesn’t mean we should think less, but rather accept that success, like anything worthwhile it is not an I game. Surprise, It’s not all about you! 

Hard work, determination, passion, are all things we should admire, and not compromise on, but the facts are that everyone else got a break in the form of someone else recognizing them, hiring them, signing them, or were given the time to pursue this thing because their spouse took a turn, stayed home, their parents, friends or nanny helped them make sure their kids were loved and taken care of while they went to book signings, met with their editor, went to meetings, took an exam, practiced medicine, etc. It really does take a village- a community! 

It Takes a Community to make a success!

Consider that so and so’s house is spotless because they had help, they hid their mess, or they simply said no to something else, to yes to clean their house, and you may have said yes to that exact thing that they said no to! 

One way or another. Even if you are single, and kid-less, and inhuman, work 24 hours a day, many of the ideals we set for ourselves are simply unattainable, without help or investment from outside sources! And that is 100% okay! 

When you think of your own self-importance, remember that no one became a success without the success of others. Nike would be just a shoe line concept with a Swoosh on it, if no one believed in it, invested, or bought a damn shoe. My boss would have never owned the 2019 Truck Dealership of the Year, had he not started sweeping floors in the shop, had his uncle not believed in him and given him a shot at a job, if he didn’t have 500  great people working for him, have a great spouse who cheers him on and supports him, and yes had he not worked hard, persevered, worked his way up, and been smart, driven, educated and focused, making it a success! Even Beyoncé with all her talent, determination and vision would be nothing without having a single fan. 


What we focus on daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly is the direction that our life will follow. 

If I try to focus on 35 things at once, I may, with mediocrity accomplish 35 things.

However if we pick let’s say a top 5 or 10 for our lifetime, then each day, each week, or each month or season we can pick one of these items which most need our focus or attention, to grow, and then you get specific, and you sprinkle in some of the others as needed. If you do this, on repeat, you can do those few things really well, and your life will grow in the direction you water it!

Work-life balance.

My top 5(-ish)

Notice you don’t see Housecleaning, or laundry.

Your schedule, life, community, and definition of success is different from every single other person’s. What you value and view important will vary some from your neighbor, and remember that it’s okay. Your journey was different from his, your realities are a little different, and your goals may be too. Stop the comparisons already and you will be so much happier!

What can we outsource?

So, some of you may know, I just recently graduated with my AAS in Business Management. My favorite econ teacher Dr. Lothringer taught me a lesson that I’ll never forget. She taught us not only about the time value of money and opportunity costs but also the value of what that can mean in our daily lives and in our community. She told us about this old home they bought and the renovations they were working on, but also in a deeper sense of community.  

She told us how they hired out certain jobs such as landscaping jobs etc. to former students. Not because she couldn’t do them, but because she found her time more valuable at the things she wanted to invest in, and where her talents lie. If she could pay a certain dollar amount to have something done, it was worth it to her if she could spend that time with her family, or working on the things that she was passionate about, or needed to do for work.

And I hear this re-iterated by two of my favorite Rachels: Hollis, and Cruze. They talk about outsourcing the things that you can, so that you can be better, or more focused on the things that you can’t and wouldn’t want to outsource. They talk about hiring help: housekeepers, cooks, nannies for some of the day-to-day while they are working, or editors, publicists,  assistants to handle details, or schedules at work, certain things that they don’t want or need to spend their energy and focus on, so that when it is time to focus on the important things they can’t hire out, they can be there 100%, instead of only 50% or less, and being incredibly distracted. 

So when it’s time for bedtime, or school plays, one-on-one kid time, date night, or family dinner, or game night, a public speaking engagement, podcast time, etc., they can be where they are, and be focused and truly present. They are still mom, daughter, and spouse, but now when it is time for mom, she is there with snuggles and love without constantly checking her phone or social media, email, etc. Because she hired or asked for help to do those things.

Setting Boundaries

“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.” 

 Tony A. Gaskins Jr.

These media moguls, and other celebs, or successes have the same 24 hours in the day that we do, but they make the most of the time they have and often set limits on the times they are available and what they are available for. Barbara Corcoran on one of her Business Unusual Podcasts talked about how she left her work cell phone in a cradle just outside her apartment suite, and sets two time blocks for emails, with an auto-reply stating when and that she will get back to you within this timeframe, if it is something only she can handle and will have her assistance respond to the rest. When it’s family time and she walks through that door, business Barbara is off-duty.

Now it’s hard when you are the boss, or own and run the business, especially when you are just starting out. You may need to be, or at least think you need to be available 24/7, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you own your own business, guess what: you get to call the shots and set the standards of expectations from your customers and clients. There will be emergencies that may alter this plan a bit, but remember this: someone else’s poor planning doesn’t need to constitute an emergency for you! In turn, also remember that is true for you! Your lack of planning doesn’t necessarily constitute someone else emergency either.

My Take Away

My takeaway on this is that we should certainly dream as big as we want, but have realistic expectations on yourself and your days! Stay focused on your lifelong top 5, and adjust your daily top 1 or 2 as needed, to create a life that you love! As long as you maintain your heart, conscience, and integrity, the rest will fall into place and “balance” over your lifetime!  

Be intentional with your commitments so that you can be the most effective at your passions, and you will well serve your family, your community and the world as a whole!

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