Growing up reading women’s magazines I was very much of the opinion that having it all meant having a full time, full on career as well as kids and a happy marriage and this would be achieved by the age of 35… Reality was somewhat different to the image the media had painted. Pre-children I thought that I would happily waltz back into my job after a year “off” and life would carry on as normal. In this blog I talk about how work / life balance has become a very modern debate and what it really means.

I speak to women every day who say they want a “better work / life balance” but what do they really mean? The whole concept of balance is that work and life are equal and often this isn’t what people want at all.

As with everything work / life balance means different things to different people and it is also grounded in circumstances. Some of us have less choices (real or perceived) and if you are the sole breadwinner making decisions about what you are going to do based entirely on balance can seem like a luxury.

Essentially we are still saying we want it all but in a different way, we want to have a career that works on our own terms whether that is a full time job, part time or a career break. How this “balances” or slots into our lives is important as it will affect our wellbeing. Work / life balance is a bit of a political hot potato though, it is often those that are the most privileged who are able to make the choice. When you are struggling to make ends meet working multiple jobs or at home as you are worse off working when you take into account childcare it doesn’t seem like a “choice”.

A lot of parents I meet start up businesses to give them flexibility as it doesn’t exist in many public and private sector organisations. Having your own business often means longer hours and an increase in work which would shoot the work / life balance argument out of the water. I know I work less hours now than I did previously BUT I still work evenings and weekends and juggle around my kids. It isn’t drinking prosecco in the garden every day whatever my 2 year old tells nursery! (I did have a Tuesday afternoon off a few weeks ago and had one glass with my mum and two friends on a beautifully sunny day, now this is apparently my “job”).

When I spoke to women about this article the same things came up, a lot of us don’t want balance, we might want less work at certain times in our life and certainly having a family can make you re-evaluate what you do BUT for many of us our work and our working identity are a huge part of who we are. We have pride in our work and enjoy it and rather than it being in “balance” with our life it compliments our family and our interests.

The basic premise of Economics is choice, resources are scarce so there will always be an opportunity cost. Whatever decision you make you are forgoing something else – it might be that staying at home to look after your family means you miss out on a fantastic promotion at work or starting your own business means you have less time with your partner at the weekends.

To have a life in balance at all times is unrealistic, to live the life you desire is a dream which can come true. You can create something that works for you where you are happy at a certain point in time and this is the most important thing. Focus on the things that you enjoy and even if you can’t do yoga every morning, bake homemade bread and pick the kids up from school whilst “balancing” a high flying career it doesn’t matter – you are doing what works for you and your family now.

Let’s ditch the idea of work – life balance and think about how we can live a more fulfilled and happy existence today.