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Why I Gave Up on Work-Life Balance

Source | LinkedIn : By Sheila Lirio Marcelo

In this series of posts, professionals reveal their best antidotes to work stress. Read the posts here, and then write your own

You’re not going to catch me striving for work-life balance.

Won’t see me spinning my wheels chasing some fantastic ideal, imposing impossible-to-meet deadlines and stressing about when and how I’m spending my time. Nope – because I gave up on work-life balance.

And it was one of the smartest decisions I could have made.  

I believe work-life balance is a myth flawed in its very premise. As the MIT professor Lotte Bailyn explains, “work-life” suggests the two exist separately and “balance” that you’d negotiate between the two to find equal weighting. Why search for something you’re never going to find?  

As for me, I’d rather pursue an integrated life. When you’ve found your purpose and can commit your whole self to everything you do, work becomes a means to that end — not something you have to put a box around.  

I was born in the Philippines, which is the world’s largest exporter of caregivers — and I’m one of them. I’m a wife, a mother, and I was part of the Sandwich Generation at 29 when my dad fell down the stairs carrying my baby boy. My purpose in life is to have a positive impact on the world around me and the people in it, so it’s no surprise that the company I founded, Care.com, shares that mission.

It’s an antiquated way of thinking that suggests we check our family lives at the door from 9 to 5, and we leave work behind when we leave the office. That’s just not the way the world works, and it doesn’t have to.  

What gets me fired up every day is that I get to bring my whole self to work. I don’t have to stop being a mother when I’m in the office. In fact, the game face I use in the board room is the same look I gave to my boys when they were younger, and I had to convey a tone of seriousness.

The same passions that drive my business drive my pursuits outside of work. The desire to make a positive impact on the world and the people around me is central to my work with foundations, like PhilDev and WomenUp, with my alma maters Mount Holyoke and Harvard Business School and at the Aspen Institute, where last year I facilitated a seminar on gender and leadership.

By now you’re probably thinking, “What about the ‘life’ side of work-life balance?” To that I’d say, this is all life.

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