Late last spring, I finally got so crazy-busy that I simply had no time left for blogging. It’s the first major hiatus I’ve taken since I posted my first entry, in 2011. So you KNOW I must have been drowning. In fact, it was work busy-ness that caused the initial overload, but eventually that segued into family busy-ness. Appropriate for a work-life blogger, no? Here’s a brief meditation on my summer:
The word “balance” is often frowned upon in the work-life field. So is the word “family.” As in: “work-family balance.” Balance is considered to be an inadequate and simplistic metaphor for the complex interactions between work and non-work in most people’s lives. Family is limiting (aren’t we allowed to have lives outside of work that don’t revolve around family?) and excludes whole groups of people who don’t currently have family responsibilities.
That’s why it was fascinating to look back on my summer and realize that, if I were to illustrate it, the picture I would draw would be of a seesaw, with work on one side, and family on the other. The only problem is that, like a seesaw, at any given point one of those—work or family—was fully in ascendance, and the other was gathering dust on the ground.
My summer broke down into a perfect graphic: two parts suspended in neat blocks of time across a mid-summer fulcrum. On the one side, June and July were about work in the extreme. Summer began in the midst of one of the busiest work seasons I had known in years, and it only got busier. By mid-July, I’d been working seven days a week for so long I could no longer remember my last day off. I had not seen the inside of the gym, or the kitchen, in months. Sometimes I was so stressed that I’d rise at 3 a.m. to grab a few hours of work (before returning, sensibly, to bed, to grab a few more hours of sleep). My son was home from college, my daughter off from high school, and nearly all I did was work.
But by early August, all that began to change. Work assignments done, deadlines met, I turned to family. My husband, two kids and I drove to Pittsburgh to join other family members in a weekend-long celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday. We took a family vacation to Canada and New England. We hung out together at home in New York City, and together we mourned the loss of one of our beloved cats.
Then, in late August, the phone rang: my father had suffered a massive stroke. Over the next few days, I spent a lot of time calling and emailing with my mother, my sister (who lives 15 minutes from my parents) and my brother (in Seattle), and—after much consultation—proceeded with plans to drive my son back to school and my daughter (a rising high school senior) to visit a few colleges. A few days after returning home—and just days after his 96th birthday—I got the second call: my father had died. I headed back to Pittsburgh, and spent the next several days nearly alone with my original family, minus, of course, our irreplaceable dad.
Work. Family. The summer was one massive, busy, horrible, happy, comforting, emotionally exhausting seesaw. Now, mid-September, I’m trying to regain my balance. I am getting back to work. The seesaw, fully atilt with family on top, slowly starts to right itself as I come back to my desk. I know I’ll be spending the fall helping my daughter organize her college applications, enjoying my son’s calls and visits, going out with my husband and friends, checking in on and spending time with my newly-widowed mother. And I’ll be working. For the moment: an even balance? It’s not likely—and even if I achieve that, it won’t last. Still, it’s good to be back.
Need some help with an employee communication? Have a story to share about work-life balance at your company? I’ve finally got a little time on my hands–drop me a line!