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Why Work/Life Balance isn't the Goal You Should Aim For

Why Work/Life Balance isn't the Goal You Should Aim For

More and more women, especially millennials, are prioritizing “work/life balance” when seeking jobs. I commend these women for prioritizing their own self-care, as I always tell clients I work with to “put the oxygen mask on themselves first.” The problem with this particular mentality as it is framed is it inherently implies that work and life are separate entities. It’s as if the person you are at home is a “mommy” suit you leave by the door on your way out, or the person you are at work is a “teacher” hat you can put on and take off at will. Does anyone really forget about their children, spouses, families, or friends when they are at work? And does any professional “turn off” their brain when they go home? Does a lawyer stop automatically thinking of the most logical argument when faced with a challenge? Do people stop asking doctors to look at their weird rashes at picnics? 

We are whole, complete people. We think about our loved ones when we are at work, on the subway, and everywhere in between, doubly so when there is an issue we are concerned about. We use the skills we learn and refine at work in our everyday interactions. It’s time to stop fighting the fact that our work lives and our home lives are not two halves of ourselves, but rather two of the many facets that make up our personalities and journeys.

[Related: 3 Ways You Can Sharpen Your Leadership and Motherhood Skills]

According to the 2016 Workforce Purpose Index by LinkedIn and Imperative (the Largest Global Study on the Role of Purpose in the Workforce), “Professionals spend a majority of their hours awake at work, and yet 2 out of 3 are disengaged in their jobs. Only 30% of the U.S. workforce reports being actively involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their work. There has never been a more crucial time to connect people with their purpose.”

Instead of seeking out a “balance” between work and life, integrate them. If your strengths at work are coalition-building and teamwork, use those skills to manage conflict on the PTA. If your job teaches you how to take a vision and make it a tangible reality, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. If you value being home for dinner, don’t work for a company that regularly schedules meetings for 7 pm. If you prioritize weekend freedom, don’t take a job with >50% travel. On the other hand, if you are young, single, and love to travel, take that job! 

The point is, there is a lid for every pot, and a company for every kind of employee. Too often, women try to fit themselves into a mold dictated by someone else’s needs. It may seem like the right choice at the outset, but anyone who has ever spent too much time trying to become a version of themselves to meet someone else’s expectations knows it never ends well.

[Related: When To Turn Down The Dream Job You Thought You Wanted]

So stop trying to force yourself into making a false choice between who you are in your life and who you are expected to be at work. If you are a right fit for an organization, you will already be living the values their company espouses. If they are a right fit for you, their mission will explicitly state values that resonate in your gut. You deserve to be happy, efficient, and effective all at once, and your company deserves an employee who is all of those things, too. Happy employees are productive employees, and productive employees increase profits for their companies. Those companies then turn around and reward productive employees with bonuses, promotions, and raises. It’s a win/win.


Jenny Maenpaa is the Executive Leadership Coach at Forward in Heels Executive Coaching. For a decade, Jenny has worked with clients struggling to achieve work/life balance, navigate tough transitions, or face a combination of personal and professional challenges and who want to make bold changes in their lives.

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