Back in the 1980s, Redbook billed itself a magazine for “the juggler” — the woman who juggled “marriage, career, family and home.” By 1991, it had changed its tune. The publication launched a new ad campaign that said that it wasn’t for “jugglers” but for squeezers: “women who squeeze the most out of life.” More recently, Redbook changed its language again and now bills itself as a publication for someone who is “balancing family-work-love-time for you.”
These shifts in language raise an interesting question: How do you describe yourself when you’re dealing with a lot of responsibilities in more than one area of life?
Many people speak today about aiming for “work/life balance.” But some experts have reservations about the term. The phrase “work/life balance,” they say, suggests that both of those areas will always have the same importance, or that you can achieve a perfect equilibrium between them. That’s rarely, if ever, true for any of us. We’re continually making adjustments that reflect our changing needs, priorities and responsibilities. And the most carefully orchestrated “balance” may come undone if an emergency occurs at home, at work, or elsewhere, especially if a crisis lasts for weeks or months.
That’s why some people prefer the term “navigating work and life” or “integrating work and life” to “balancing work and life.” “Navigating” suggests that you’re steering your life in a certain direction, rather than aiming to give equal attention to all parts of. And “integrating” means that you’re bringing together its different aspects. The language you prefer is a matter of personal taste and choice.
But if you keep striving for a balance that you never seem to achieve, you might want to reframe your goal as one of smooth navigation or integration of all your responsibilities. More than striving for a complete harmony that may remain forever elusive, aiming to do your best to stay on course every day may help you, as the editors of Redbook put it, to “squeeze the most out of life.”
This post was written by Sharon Teitelbaum, Master Certified Coach, www.stcoach.com.