Work-life balance has always been something that I’ve struggled with.
When I worked at Free The Children, they pushed the term “work-life integration” instead of work-life balance. Basically, the idea was that the stuff you do from 9 to 5 should blend seamlessly with the life you are living outside of the office. It was also a helpful tool in convincing us to take work home and do work on the weekend since our work lives and home lives were so interconnected.
And then when I worked at UBC, it was obvious that there was a huge distinction between work life and home life. As soon as your eight hour day finished, work was finished. I never took anything home with me or worried about a work project when I wasn’t at work. There was 100% separation.
But neither of those worked for me. When I was at FTC, it became my life. We worked eight and a half hour days, did outreach and projects outside of work hours and were regularly expected to take work home. It probably didn’t help that my roommate was a fellow employee and that FTC-branded stuff was everywhere we looked (at Chapters, at David’s Tea and even on screen at the movie theatre). So I loved the idea of working at UBC and being able to leave behind my work day at 4:00pm. But I had no connection to my work. Sure, I worked hard while I was there but the work I was doing at UBC didn’t mean anything to me; I wasn’t passionate about it.
So now I’m a freelance writer and the work-life balance has done a 180 all over again.
Now, I am passionate about the work, for the most part. There are certain projects I like more than others but overall, I really enjoy what I’m doing. But the struggle is finding that balance between my work life and my home life. And it’s made all the more complicated by the fact that my work is at home.
I struggle with finding that balance between my work and my home life. Sometimes, life wins out and I forgo my work in favour of doing chores, going grocery shopping, seeing friends or marathoning How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. And sometimes, work overpowers life and I find myself checking my email at all hours of the day and night, working on projects during mealtimes and never actually taking a weekend.
Sometimes I’m jealous of Colin who doesn’t have to worry about work when he leaves the hospital. He literally can’t x-ray anywhere other than at work. I hate that I feel guilty everytime we sit down to watch a show together or I bring my laptop with me because work is always on my mind. But I know he’s jealous of me when I send him SnapChats of Ellie and I lounging on the couch with take-out while he’s at work.
To be honest, life often beats out work. And by that, I mean that I’m not putting in a full eight hours Monday to Friday. On average, I’m probably spending much more time watching TV and doing other life stuff than I am typing at my laptop. But the work stuff still finds it’s time and place. I know I need to dedicate more time to it. And I think that’s just a process of figuring out how I work best. Carving out time and space to be productive and get shit done.
A part of freelance writing that I love is being able to work from home. I joke that I get to stay in my pajamas all day (not a joke, actual reality). But it’s more than that. I love that my schedule is flexible. Colin currently works 4pm-12am. If I was working a traditional 9-5, we would never see each other. If I didn’t work from home, we probably wouldn’t have been able to get our wee pup, Ellie. And we probably wouldn’t have moved out to New West because trekking out to UBC from here would be a nightmare. Working from home has also made it so much easier for me to do stuff like go to breakfast with Colin’s grandma, take Ellie to vet appointments and be available for little family things that come up at the last minute. So much of my life would be different if I didn’t work online in my pajamas in our living room.
But, as I’m new to freelancing, I know I still need to find that balance. Maybe it means actually putting on pants and dragging my butt to Starbucks so it feels like I’m going to work. Or maybe it means clocking in and out of work so I can put in the hours. And maybe it’s making my home office space a more desirable place to work. Maybe it’s setting aside certain hours or days to be specific working and non-working times.
I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do to get that ideal work-life balance. But I know I’m closer to how I want that to look than I was in my previous jobs with Free The Children or UBC. Freelancing full time has been a crazy ride and it’s only been seven months. I’m really proud of myself for jumping into this field, pursuing a dream and finding financial success with it. Now I can focus on growing the other aspects of my life into this new role and finding a work life and home life balance that works best for me.