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Work/Life Balance: Balance Does Not Mean Perfection

Work/Life Balance: Balance Does Not Mean Perfection

Shonda Rhimes graduation speech at DartmouthEvery graduation season, I’m always excited to see which speech wins the unofficial award for graduation speech of the year–the one that manages to touch and inspire both the graduate and the graduate’s dad and sister and grandmother all at the same time. I always marvel at people who can take a pretty tired tradition and do something new with it. This year, I think Shonda Rhimes deserves the distinction. Her address to Dartmouth grads was fabulous. And I’m not saying that just because I’m obsessed with Scandal. She imparts wisdom, humor and honesty with words I wish I heard as I was leaving college. She also, rather unexpectedly, talked candidly about being a working mom. What was her advice to future moms and dads? Anyone who says they’re “doing it all” is lying. As she said, “If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in…If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff.” Perhaps that sounds a little scary to a 21 year old who hasn’t even figured out the job thing yet let alone the “starting a family” thing. But, as a working mother in the middle of some big work projects, I found it incredibly comforting.

So often we try to think of work/life balance as this static concept that exists where we find a way to perfectly fit all the pieces of our lives into our day. In my experience, that is certainly not the case most days. I related to what Rhimes said because lately I have found myself feeling like I am failing in some areas of my life at one time or another. I’m kicking butt at work and being a happy engaged parent at home but I haven’t exercised in a week and my house looks like it was ransacked. Or, after a busy week at work, if I need a day to just hang out and have fun with Liam, it means cancelling plans with friends and ignoring my list of weekend errands which really need to get done. What Rhimes basically said, or at least what I took from it, was that it is OKAY for there to be a tradeoff. It’s okay to be “failing” at different parts of your life from time to time. Finding balance does not mean finding perfection and having an unbalanced day doesn’t necessarily mean you have an unbalanced life.

A Bright Horizons executive and working mother whom I really admire once spoke about work/life balance as something that needs to be examined with a long lens. She compared it to a set of scales and said that some days her scales are tipped one way and other days they are tipped the other way. Every day doesn’t need to be balanced, but perhaps we can look to find balance in every week – or even every month – and address what can be done to change things if we find it’s unbalanced from that prospective. I often feel like there isn’t enough time to get done everything I should and want to, but I’m trying to change the way I look at it. There is never going to be enough time for all the good (and necessary) in my life and maybe, just maybe, that’s okay.

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One comment

  1. Meg June 19, 2014 at 9:01 am

    This is just what I needed to read this morning – thank you. I love the idea of the scales and will keep that in mind when things feel off balance, which is pretty much every day.

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