7.08.2015

Work Life Balance

http://i01.i.aliimg.com/wsphoto/v0/2045976467/Top-Selling-Novelty-Creative-Vintage-Retro-Distorted-font-b-Clock-b-font-Right-Angle-Wall-font.jpgAmy and I are 2+ months into the newborn experience, and she goes back to work in just a few weeks.  The end of her leave has me contemplating the age-old notion of work/life balance.  It is a tension for me of opposing forces:

* On the one hand, I was raised in a culture that valued family first, where technical jobs were prized because you could maximize earning potential while minimizing work-related headaches outside of the office, thus allowing you to provide for your kids and spend quality time with them.  I am a Christian, and most Christians have a category for being leery of workaholism and being supportive of being there for your family.  And, I desire to be a modern man in terms of replacing traditional gender roles with a more balanced division of labor as it relates to child-related duties.

* On the other hand, I swim in social circles in which working long hours is the norm, as is juggling work and other work-related responsibilities (teaching, mentoring, sitting on boards).  I am a business owner, which means I do sweat the work stuff outside of work, and am financially and intellectually motivated to invest in the firm and in my professional self.  Finally, I am in professional services, which means that my livelihood is dependent on being there for my clients, which means that my schedule and focus is at their disposal.

What has this meant for me over the past 2+ months?  It has meant spending even more kid time than before, since Asher is much needier than Aaron and Jada are.  But it has also meant the continuation of a workload that regularly exceeds 60 hours a week, that sometimes involves travel, and that always involves juggling multiple projects/deadlines/roles in my head.

To cite but one of many possible examples, the night after a 3-day business trip a couple of weeks ago (which, btw, I will note involved two short nights of sleep followed by a redeye), I woke up at 1 in the morning (!) to bang out three hours of work before tending to Asher when he arose at 4.  Mercifully, he went right back to bed after a diaper change and a bottle, because I then proceeded to bang out four more productive hours (this time, chores and errands) before taking all 3 kids to the Y, after which I left them all with Amy so I could go teach a 3 1/2 hour class at Penn.  That was all on a Saturday morning.

Perhaps I would have it no other way.  Being a full-time dad and a full-time consultant is awesome.  And, with few exceptions, I have gotten a decent amount of sleep: Amy has been great bearing the brunt of Asher's demanding schedule, and Asher has been a pretty good eater and sleeper.  I do not often begrudge the time I spend either on work stuff or family stuff, even if it means I have to be hyper vigilant about my time management and have to sacrifice many leisure pursuits.

Still, I am cognizant of the need to constantly and vigilantly evaluate my work/life balance.  I want to make sure that, in terms of spiritual roots, physical maintenance, and sleep, I am tending to my own needs and not sacrificing them to the firm or to my family in unsustainable ways.  I want to set an example for my co-workers and students of how to be a professional who is committed to his work but who also has a life outside of work.  And I want to convey to others that work deadlines are important but sometimes life trumps them, and that work is meaningful but so is family and rest and leisure.

I am aware of the growing body of research on gender roles and their effect on the home and work fronts.  Men seem to enhance their reputations at work when they become dads, but are often penalized if they take paternity leave or otherwise make accommodation to be there for family at the expense of being all-in at work.  We still have a long way to go in terms of shedding outdated and sexist notions of how men and women can juggle work and family.  And I have a long way to go in terms of being comfortable about how much I give to work and family, neither giving into workaholism or drivenness nor shirking my responsibilities as a business owner and consultant.  I guess that's the thing about a balance, is that it is something that constantly needs to be reviewed and recalibrated. 
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