Work Life Balance is Made Up

I have a feeling the term “work life balance” is a made up lie.

The term, mind you.

Not because I can’t seem to find that elusive “work life balance” and am angry about it (and am envious of all the people out there who “have it together”). It’s because, just like the “Can Women Have It All?” so-called “debate,” “work life balance” is a made-up concept aimed at shaming us all.

Why do I think this? It’s all to do with how we measure work and life. Whether we measure quantity or quality, we’re comparing unequal terms.

First, the phrase “work life balance” implies that there is a certain quantity of “work” and a certain quantity of “life” that, when placed on a cosmic set of judge’s scales, can make the scales even out.

This is absolutely not true.

Work is something you do with your life. Play is something you do with your life. So is…

  • Raising a family
  • Going to school
  • Painting watercolors
  • Brewing beer
  • Walking down the street
  • Buying groceries
  • Arguing with your spouse
  • Looking at flowers
  • Crying, singing, laughing, hugging, venting, sleeping, wailing, cooking…

There are many things you do with your “life” and “work” is but one of them. So why not “work play balance” or “work family balance” or “work leisure balance”? Because they don’t sound as catchy and fraught with existential meaning as “work life balance.”

Second, we often argue that the phrase “work life balance” is more about the quality of one’s life. Again, not true. I’ve never seen these cosmic judges scales, but I’m pretty sure they do not measure the quality of your work output and compare it to the quality of your… life (?) output.

The comparisons are misleading jargon. And we should buck them entirely.

Don’t strive for “work life balance.” Strive instead to make your whole life–work and all–rich and lovely.

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