Balancing ‘work’ and ‘life’ right now is what one might call a ‘shit show’.
I love it. Kind of.
I just tried to record a video for you. Twice. Both ended when my toddler started screaming outside my office door. Actually, the first one, I just kept going, because many parents now have a new ‘work soundtrack’ and it sounds like their kids! But then my dog started barking, the distractions became intolerable and I just really wanted to be living BY MYSELF in a hotel room so I could work in peace.
As I write this I can hear my husband talking the big kid through his school work in the next room as the little kid is announcing his new fave word ad nauseum…. “no no no no no no no”.
But, you know what’s beautiful and exciting about this to me?
(hold on, big kid just burst in, I’m going to send him to get me more coffee).
Okay, I’m back.
Back to my point. And if this is feeling fragmented to read, that’s the point.
The culture is really changing around work and family. Potentially.
Or at least, for now, the two have collapsed together.
While horrifically unsustainable for so many, and while women are disproportionately carrying the weight of it (surprise surprise), I do think this is a pretty cool time to ask, why have our personal lives and our work lives been so divided and does this actually work for us? Even for those without children.
I don’t mean making our private lives public (although many do!) or even that we shouldn’t be able to separate and put things down. But that there’s ‘work and career’ and then there’s everything else: our families, relationships, spiritual lives, growth and development, communities.
Now that we’re in this shelter in place boat, people are a lot more understanding and forgiving when it comes to the needs, demands and interruptions of children, even those without kids. My hope is that it will prompt us all to look more closely at the way we work and live and question the values and ways of working that really don’t support thriving communities.
Communities, after all, include children. And those who care for children. And how those children are cared for and nurtured really matters. Those children will one day be in leadership positions and well, we can all look around at people in leadership positions and think, shit, that guy really could have done well with a less traumatic upbringing. Sucks for us.
So while I’m not celebrating the struggle that so many are experiencing, I am celebrating the collapsing divide between life and work. Because, guess what? They were never separate to begin with. There was always someone taking care of those kids and if we can value and better compensate the teachers and (predominantly) women who were and are, and better share the labour and reality that there are many things that contribute to thriving communities that don’t fall under the umbrella of ‘paid work’, that’d serve us well.
Speaking beyond children and families though, there’s the divide that can be summed up in “Sorry, it’s not personal, it’s business.” What sense does this make? I get it, there are a lot of important business decisions that personal stakes or feelings aren’t the priorities that float to the top. But what’s also implied is that empathy, values, our own personal challenges, inner worlds, attachment needs and complexity as human beings somehow get checked at the office door. But they don’t really, do they? On the surface perhaps, but we bring who we are wherever we go and what I’ve seen a lot of are people trying to stuff themselves into some view or version of who they think they should be to meet the professional or societal expectations before them.
Now that this world crisis has brought work into homes for so many, I think it allows us to examine the whole ecosystem of how we live, work and lead and which throughlines are most important to us.
For me, this has been a key priority and focus my entire adult life. I work from home and make a home of my work.
My personal development is my business development. My business is an expression of my passion, values, art and genius. I’ve hired friends and family my entire career and every person currently on my team I’d trust with all my passwords and would lend them my toothbrush (yep, I’m gross like that.)
I’ve had clients become friends and mentors become clients. I’ve worked from my kitchen table, bathroom floor, from my son’s bed (while he mocked my abhorrent excel skills). “Mom, filling it with colour won’t make that function any better. Mom, do you even know how to fill that with colour? Mom, this is embarrassing.”
While I don’t find having kids piled on me while I’m working to be all that efficient or creatively fulfilling, I sure have been grateful to work with progressive, open and understanding people who not only understood, but celebrated, when I chose to breastfeed in the middle of leading a strategic planning meeting.
So this isn’t just about kids or family overlapping work and it’s definitely not about lacking boundaries (three cheers for strong boundaries), it’s about the throughline of one’s life’s calling touching every area of life such that all of who we are gets to come to the party. Again, I don’t mean that everything becomes an enmeshed wash, but that overall, work has to contribute to life and life needs to contribute to work and if they are always in conflict (on a micro personal scale or on a macro societal scale), we’ve got to be doing it wrong!
The intersection between the fullness of who we are, where our deepest gifts and wisdom reside and how we get to bring that to our work, leadership and contribution, that is the sweet spot to me. The temporary collapse of home and work is a gritty opportunity to face and turn up the heat on that intersection so we can really design work and life to be in simbiosis.
I’m curious about your experience with these themes and threads. What’s shifting that feels relevant and important to you as you look ahead at how you want to live, work and lead? Please share in the comments below!