Friday, April 28, 2006

Sometimes there is no balance

I write a lot about work-family balance, but I think what I really mean when I think about balance is something perhaps more personal and more involved than simply balancing work and family. For one thing, saying work and family implies that those are the only two things that matter and that's simply not true. And my life right now exemplifies that and is in many ways unbalanced. It has to be for the moment. Let me explain.

Balance for me means that I'm working 9-5, busy enough to be satisfied with my work and getting everything I need to get done during those hours and not coming home feeling stressed about the things that didn't get done. At home, I have time to get some work done around the house and spend some leisure time with the family. And, there's time for me. There's time to work on personal projects or do something just for me: take a bath, play a video game, read a book. Here's a picture of what that might look like:

Nice balanced teeter totter and yes, I can't draw. When things are out of balance, one aspect of life takes over the other and my focus shifts. In my case, both my work and my dissertation have taken over my life. When I'm not working, I'm dissertating and at work right now, things are a little too busy (should be more balanced next week), so that I can't completely dismiss it when I get home. When life is unbalanced in this way, I tend to not think about other stuff. I can't deal with housework, for example, and I have to give up leisure both with the family and for myself, but at the same time, I'm focused primarily on myself, so that if there is time, I tend to pamper myself. The idea, for me, is that I need to rejuice myself for the work ahead. Here's a picture of what I think this looks like.

Probably for Mr. Geeky, it feels more like he's on the low end, but I like the image of three people still not able to make the see saw go down. I'm sucking all the energy for myself. When Mr. Geeky was in this mode, with a full-time tenure track job and finishing his dissertation, I was a stay-at-home mom, so although things were unbalanced and I wasn't particularly happy about that, the world didn't fall apart. I knew the situation was temporary. But things were unbalanced then in other ways. Because I was doing all the housework and childcare, I didn't have as much time for myself and we certainly didn't get enough leisure time together as a family.

I'm wondering if there's ever balance. Around here it seems, the see saw is always going up and down. And yet, I need for it to stay tilted in my direction in order to finish my dissertation. That creates tension at times as different family members feel they need more of the family support for themselves. Or just need some socks.

I kind of hate the feeling of being in my own bubble. You can tell just by the blog that that's happened (less connections to other people or writing about current events), but I'm afraid that unbalance will have to stay in place with small breaks along the way in order to get this work done.