What is work life balance for women? Does it really exist?

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What is work life balance for women? Does it really exist?

How are women living in the world today in our quest for the elusive work-life balance? How are we managing the many tasks that fill the to do lists of women everywhere: is it a juggle of scheduling, running errands, working, rushing, being anxious or in overwhelm, frustration and exhaustion that eventually leads us to be busy and sick as the rising levels of illness and disease in women indicates?[i]

How did we move from a natural way of flow to an unnatural way of busy and unhealthy, and is it time we stopped to consider truly what is work-life balance for women – and does it really exist?

I first heard the term work-life balance when I was a teenager and while the term resonated, I didn’t really understand what it meant. Fast forward twenty years and my understanding deepened. Balancing a young family, friendships, marriage, mortgage, career and social life, I was now living what was considered ‘work and life balance’ and watching all the women around me trying to do the same. I watched the rushing, sometimes running. I observed the pale, taut faces, the crossed brows and the lack of smiles, observing these often in others but most often noting them in myself.

I know from my own experience that as my workload increased, the strain on my nervous system and my stress levels increased. But rather than listening to and feeling this in my body, I chose to go into override and just carry on.

So why did I ignore what was happening in my body, and why do so many other women do the same?

We are all aware of the roles we play and the hats we put on and alternate as our lives require in our bid to have work-life balance. But is it our relationship with these roles and the pictures and the expectations that we have attached to them that causes us to ignore and override these feelings and signs from our body:

  • exhaustion
  • frustration
  • drawn face in the mirror
  • collapsing onto the lounge at the end of the day
  • for an increasing number of women, hanging out for ‘wine-o’clock’ to get through
  • non-existent libido

Have we constructed a picture of work and life as being like a set of juggling balls that need to be kept in the air, each ball representing a role that we need to play? Or rather, each ball representing a picture of a role that we need to play: perfect mother, perfect wife, perfect children, perfect daughter, perfect body, perfect grooming, perfect career, perfect house and perfect social life…. and as long as we keep the picture perfect balls in the air, then we are doing OK.

But we are not OK.

We have moved far from a natural way of flow and vitality to an unnatural way of busy and exhausted.

We won’t readily admit it, but our bodies do.

How is ignoring and living outside of our body’s clear feedback ever going to be sustainable? In my case, eventually those balls came crashing down and my body gave me the gift of the stop moment I needed – but couldn’t give myself – to re-evaluate my life and question how the busyness, stress and anxiety of trying to live according to a set of pictures of how life should look, could ever support me to live a true quality of life?

Clearly it wasn’t about balancing things at all; in fact, there was no such thing as a work-life balance. The first steps were all about stopping to listen to my body, nurturing it, and looking honestly at my idealised pictures and expectations:

  • Am I saying yes to something because I’m reluctant to speak up, given up, have a fear of missing out, afraid of disappointing or angering someone, even when my body is clearly telling me by its tiredness, depletion and edginess to say no?
  • Am I making decisions according to living up to a picture that I have?
  • Do I listen to my body when I become tired, exhausted, anxious or ill, and investigate why?
  • Do I make my choices based on attaining or maintaining an ideal around a certain role – or getting recognition by keeping up a role?
  • Am I supporting myself with nourishing food and moving, resting and living in a supportive way?

"Women must rekindle their own rhythms within society and not let society demand of them what is not natural to their body."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 526

For me, committing to listening to my body was a totally new concept, but slowly – with baby steps – as I listened, I began to consider how I lived my life and instead of living on automatic ‘ball juggling’ pilot, I re-connected back to my body and back to myself.

Day-by-day the tasks that needed to be completed didn’t change, but my movements and approach to them did; I stayed present with myself and developed an inner quality of steadiness that was very different to the nervous, racy energy I’d had flowing through me previously.

Life was no longer a juggling act. Slowly the roles, the pictures, the expectations and the self-abuse, whether through thoughts or actions, dropped away and my understanding of what is work-life balance completely changed. I realised that ‘work-life’ balance didn’t really exist and trying to achieve it was to live a lie.

The newfound self-nurturing and self-care that I learned from listening to my body connected me to a different inner quality and with it I let go of the ‘busyness’ and returned to the natural rhythm and flow of life that is there for all of us to enjoy at home, at work, and everywhere in between.

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Women – rekindling our natural rhythms

As women underneath it all we are exactly the same, deal with the same issues and agree there needs to be a different way. That change starts with each one of us.


Reference:

  • [i]

    World Health Organization. 2011. Non-communicable Diseases: A Priority for Women’s Health and Development. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/pmnch/topics/maternal/2011_women_ncd_report.pdf.pdf

Filed under

EmpowermentWork stressWork life balanceBody awareness

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    By Susan Potter, B.Sc, B.Com, Dip Aud, Dip Counselling.

    I am a tender, loving woman who Ioves life and supporting others, both personally, through family/friendship/relationship and through work, supporting people to support themselves with health and disability challenges.

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    Photography: Matt Paul