Experiences as ideas

Two months ago on this site I wrote a bit about the way I think about work and life. This has been an ongoing evolution for me, pushed by a lot of what I’ve read on the subject of work life balance. There are two main sides to this debate: one says there is no work/life balance, it is all just life and the other insists the balance exists.

As I stated in my previous piece, I disagree with the “it’s all just life” contingent. I believe there is a balance to be found. I say this, because I need time completely away from all obligations and if I mix it all up together and make it all life, well those obligations that I associate with work are always hanging over me.

But, just about the time that piece was published, I realized something else. Many of the people who advocate that it is all life don’t have traditional jobs with a boss. By which I mean that many of them are running their own businesses, they are consultants, or maybe a partner in a small company. When you are in a position where you decide your schedule, you get to decide your hours, etc, it is easy to say it is all life.

But I’ve worked in many-a-job where I didn’t have that freedom. I’ve had jobs where being able to be home to meet a plumber or furnace repair person was extremely difficult. There are others who have demanding bosses and don’t get the breaks they need and desire from work. And sometimes, we can’t make changes to those jobs when we’d like due to life circumstances.

We all desire to have a job where we are trusted, valued, and appreciated by the team we work with and the people we work for, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. And when someone who is lucky enough to have all that tells the person who doesn’t that it is all just life, well, that may look fairly grim.

So I’m trying to be more careful and sensitive to the situations of others. Rather than being prescriptive with my advice, I’m trying very hard to state what works for me, thinking of them as ideas for others rather than the only way to do things.

Much as Eileen Webb said in a piece earlier this year,

Our experiences and lessons still have great value and are worth sharing, but we have to stop presenting them as law.

So many who wade into the work/life balance debate seem to present their perspective as law; as if their experience is everyone’s. And since each of our situations are different, maybe remembering to take them as the ideas they are is the best thing I can share.

This post originally appeared on The Pastry Box on May 7, 2015.