I sat across from my mentor, eagerly awaiting her answer.
She laughed. “Tina, you know there’s no such thing as work life balance.”
Her answer took me aback. Here was the only female, senior vice-president of a $13.5 billion, Fortune 500 company, happily married to a successful businessman with two small children at home . . . and she had no balance between her work and her life?
As she explained further, I realized I had been deceived by my own naiveté. I viewed my life as one of those traditional balance scales. I put the hours I spent working on one side and the remaining hours of my day on the other. My goal was to figure out the secret key that placed the two sides in perpetual, perfect balance. But so far, that key remained a secret from me. I never reached that kind of balance—not even for a day! All I had unlocked was frustration and disappointment.
The truth? Work life balance based upon a definition of equality does not exist.
And yet, I must pay attention to both aspects of my life. A disproportionate amount of time spent at work caused me to neglect other relationships in my life and wooed me with the idols of money and success. On the flip side, a narrow focus on family and hobbies caused grumbling while I worked, a general negative attitude toward my workplace, and sometimes even resulted in poor performance. Neither option led to glorifying God through my whole life.
That day with my mentor, I began to redefine my definition of balance: to hold each part of life in proper priority.
Holding life in proper priority requires me to constantly reorient my life around Christ. Jan Johnson in her book Living a Purpose-full Life writes, “If each day is about knowing and loving God, that day’s activities will flow out of a divine common sense.” For me, that means starting my day by focusing on him. Each day may bring a different activity: reading a devotional guide, meditating on a quote or a verse, journaling, or praying. I don’t allocate a specific amount of time; I spend as long or short a time as I need to make a connection with God. Beginning my day this way helps me keep him in the forefront of my mind and reminds me that my purpose is to be a reflection of Christ’s character to those around me.
Throughout the day as I face decisions about how to spend my time, I try to ask myself how I can demonstrate a characteristic of Christ to those around me. Some days that means I choose to work a little longer than usual in order to complete a project for a client on time because Christ is faithful to keep his word. Other days I take time off to care for a sick friend or spend a special day with my daughter, as Christ valued and honored relationships in his life.
I don’t pretend to be perfect when it comes to work life balance. I try to recognize opportunities to glorify him in every part of my life—the entire day’s activities, not just the so-called “religious” tasks.