Work-Life Imbalance

On a daily basis I find articles and blog posts promising good advice on balancing work and family. They only seem to help with making me feel more out of balance. How do these working moms do it?! There is a deceiving calmness to the advice they offer and I always ask myself the same question. What am I doing wrong? A harmonious work-life balance is like Bigfoot; I want to believe it exists.

On occasion, I have brought my son to work. He’s well behaved when he’s somewhere new and loves the oooh’s, awww’s, and attention he gets from co-workers. Although I don’t know much about cooking, I do know a 1 year old and an office environment full of things he can’t touch is a recipe for a tantrum.

The working hours are long and even longer when I am lonely for my son. Which is like always. Working from home sounds nice, but I can’t even fool myself into believing that it would be a good option to consider. Worth a try, but likely not a productive solution.

Fortunately, I have found ways of feeling closer to my baby during the hours of 9-5 when I’m doing my ‘other job.’

My son is always in the care of family when I am at work. Instead of a standard written report telling me about his day, I get pictures through out the day showing me the exciting things he is doing. For a moment, seeing his pictures makes me feel like I am right there with him. Fortunately my co-workers are good sports when I show them the pictures too.

There is also a special area in my work space where I keep a few of my favorite (and fabulously Washington, DC) photographs. I proudly display his hand prints we made during his first day in the office many months ago. Don’t be fooled by the neatness and organization. This is the only thing orderly about my cubicle. Might explain why a work-family balance feels so unattainable to me.

Occasionally, there are those days and opportunities for bringing my son to the office. By opportunities, I mean days when a lower level of productivity is acceptable. Mostly, those are just weekends.

With President’s Day just behind us, I’m reminded of how difficult 3 day weekends can be. You know what happens to the mouse you give a cookie to, right? Inevitably when I return to work, I miss my son a little bit more than usual.

If there is a such thing as a work-life balance, I am still looking for it. In the meantime, I have his pictures, baby-talk phone calls, and a wonderful greeting each evening when I come home. Although the quantity of time I would like to spend with my son is significantly less than I would prefer, the quality of our time together is wonderful. Perhaps it is the quality of family time that keeps work-life in balance. In that case, mission accomplished.


UPDATE 03.01.2012 Check out a follow-up to Work-Life Imbalance at Getting Work and Life More in Balance.


99 thoughts on “Work-Life Imbalance

  1. I’m in the same department! But I don’t even get to bring him into work. Right now he’s in home daycare but she sends me picture texts and sends home crafts from story time at the library. When he’s three he can go to the daycare at my work. They have a one way window so you can stop by and see your kids without disturbing anything! I’m very excited.

    If you find out the secret we’re searching for please let me know!

    • One of my earliest teaching positions was as curriculum and resource director for a program that also offered preschool. I am happy to say I don’t have any horror stories about the child care… 100% of the drama came from teachers complaining about one another. But I just felt so bad for the 2 yo’s that were there from 6am to 6pm (longer than the teacher’s shifts). These little one’s never had anyone checking in on them or asking about there day. As a former teacher and now as a parent I appreciate parents who are involved in the care of their children. Sometimes we can’t help working long hours, but we can do something about checking in. Glad you will have an option to be closer to your child soon! Also, I am following you on Pinterest! I was so excited when I saw how many boards and pins you have!:)

      • Working Mom,
        Sounds to me like you want to be a stay at home Mom, but like most everyone else in Today’s economy it takes two incomes to run a household.
        You are very talented and should think about working at home and for yourself, so you can have the time freedom you wont and need.

        I am an old man and I mean old, with a disabled wife and here is what I have done and it might work for you. Check out these two web sites and see what you think.
        First to see what the product is and then my site, if you want any more information you can e-mail me at

        Thanks for listening


  2. Even working from home, I have to have child-care for my 3 year old. It’s kind of crazy – I felt weird at first, but I don’t get anything done when he’s around, and he’s been known to get on conference calls and speak when he’s been home while I was letting the dogs out. It’s hard, but my kid do so much better when we have a routine. School, snack, outside play, dinner, shower, books, bed… more or less. It keeps me sane and keeps them content because they know what to expect. I do miss them all day long, though. Funny video. I hope I didn’t sound like that, but am sure I did.

    • I know for a fact I would get NOTHING done if I worked from home. It was very honest of you to acknowledge that fact and do what was necessary to make sure you got something done. The very first time my son got a hold of my iPhone (work phone) he called my boss. Like THE boss! Not THE Bruce Springsteen, but someone I kind of look up to in regards of being the Bruce Springsteen of politics (if it is possible to be THAT cool and be involved in politics). Embarrassing but totally awesome he laughed at that. However, my previous employer was not so family friendly… wasn’t so friendly period.

  3. Ugh I wish I knew the answer. I totally agree it is always SO hard to go back to work after a long weekend. I miss my babies so much but try to enjoy them and every moment when I have off. Sometimes this means letting the laundry or house keeping go. I’m working on this too. It’s always a work in progress life as a working mom, right?

    • My son has become much more manageable when I am trying to spend time with him and accomplish some household related work. Otherwise, I hate having time at home that I am not spending with him. It is definitely a work in progress and I don’t think I will ever stop learning from it.

  4. I think my life went completely off balance 5 years ago when I had my daughter. Never to go back to the way it was again πŸ™‚ I don’t think there is such a thing, it is an urban legend.

  5. This post pretty much echoed everything my mom has said to me over the years about being a working mother and having to hire extra help when my sister and I were young. She felt guilty about leaving me in someone else’s care and having to work long hours. When I was about 6 or 7, we had a bad experience with a nanny and my parents threw in the towel on having hired help and decided they would just do it themselves. This involved carpooling with another family (this was a crazy experience in itself which I could write an entire book about haha) to school and my dad getting up extra early to put in the hours at work so he could pick up my sister, me, and the kids we carpooled with (we got out of school at 2:45). Mom would be there in the morning to see us off and would come home around 6. Also my mom brought me to her office quite a number of times over the years because we no longer had a nanny. I can remember accompanying her there when I was as young as 4. I was a pretty quiet kid and very shy and I was pretty content just sitting there drawing or playing on my Mom’s computer in Paint lol. I always thought a trip to Mom’s office was super cool (I used to think her office’s cafeteria was the coolest place because you could choose whatever you wanted to eat). So it is possible doing it without hired help but it is very, very tricky and my mom never felt less guilty about it.

    • So well said and thanks for sharing your story. My mother was a working-mom too and my sister and I LOVED going to work with her! Perhaps when my son is a little older he can be my office helper. πŸ™‚

  6. I wish I could find the person who coined the term “work life balance” and kick him.

    The definition of balance is “a state of equilibrium or equipoise; EQUAL distribution of weight, amount, etc.” or “to be EQUAL or proportionate” (my emphasis in all caps). When you are a working parent of young children there is no balance! I prefer “work family juggle” (juggle = to hold, catch, carry, or balance precariously; almost drop and then catch hold again!).

    The doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it’s just immensely difficult and fodder for interesting blog posts! Best of luck to you!

    • LOVE THIS: I wish I could find the person who coined the term β€œwork life balance” and kick him.

      And you are totally right, juggle is a better term to use. I will be mindful of that in the future. πŸ™‚

  7. wow its amazing that you manage to keep both your work life and your family like going πŸ™‚ i think that is an achievement in itself. you need to concentrate on what you are doing well not on what other people appear to be doing or how you compare to other people. the only thing that matters is that you love to spend time with your son, if that is special in small amounts= PERFECT πŸ™‚ because you are you
    keep smiling x

    • When my son is school age, we intend to home-school. When that time comes, my job will be to spend time with my son. Hopeful everything goes according to our plans in the future.

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  9. I completely understand your pain! I just recently resigned from a full-time position and am now able to stay at home, at least for a little while. There really is no balance when it comes to working full-time and having a family. You just have to do the best you can. I had an hour commute to and from work and was so exhausted by the end of the day! Cherish the time that you do spend with your son, and if you can, splurge on yourself once in awhile. The kids grow up fast! Mine is 14 years old and going to high school next year!

    • I agree Marijane. There just is no balance and I think there’s a reason for that — we are meant to be with our kids. They need us, we need them. I know some moms are not able to be home full-time, but if it’s at all possible, it’s certainly worth the struggle of making it happen. Arranging our double-income lives to accommodate mom staying-at-home can take some time, but absolutely worth it. .

      • Or Dad staying at home, of course. I have wondered what the world would be like if both parents worked part time … then both work and family would be more balance to both parents.

      • My husband and I do not think it would be financially wise to cut down to one income at this time. We are constantly re-evaluating things and keeping our son’s best interest in mind.

    • I always underestimated how quickly children grow and change. That is one of the issues that makes it difficult to be a working-mom from 9-5.

      Good luck with your high schooler! πŸ™‚

  10. There’s a chance that the work/family-life balance is a myth. I think that it’s easier to take work and family as it comes separately – work for these hours, family for the other hours.
    Loved your honesty πŸ™‚

  11. I know how you feel! My daughter is ten-months old and I struggle between being a mom and having a career. I was lukcy enough to find a new job last month where I can work from home, keep her in daycare, and spend an extra two hours a day with her (time which used to be eaten up by my commute). I don’t think anyone really has it figured out. I still feel torn sometimes between work and life. But it sounds like you’re on the right track!

    • There are a thousand different ways moms (and dads) have made arrangements to work and spend more time with family. I am most definitely still working on it.

  12. I think life will never be balance no matter how we want it to be…It’s just a matter of enjoying whatever we have and accomplishing according to the twist and turn of life that makes us become better on this world we’re living.

  13. Balance has movement and play afforded to it. Balance is not stagnant nor solid – it cannot be cast. I think as a culture we confuse natures balance of give and take, ebb and flow with a structured balance of a still photograph that conjures images of nostalgia that are actually non-existant.
    Each day has a different balance in and of itself, that’s why trying to be regimented within a structured routine brings with it its own pitfalls. Balance is being ready to be thrown off course but recovering with lightning speed and agility.

  14. I work at home with the baby while older daughter is at school. Suffice to say this gives me a two hour window during nap time. So productivity is low/ frustration high. There are hgood moments though. I guess it’s like the comment abover… figuring out ways to work less, so the work that is done is cool and relevant.

    • There will always be ‘something else’ that needs to be done. We should look at the end of each day and ask ourselves, what DID I accomplish today? πŸ™‚

  15. haha great! I never worked out how mothers do it all either. And look so calm! I pull my hair out just trying to balance a normal work/house/study life, and I don’t even have kids yet. I can’t imagine what a shock I’m in for πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for visiting and sharing your take. Certainly life itself is a bumpy ride. I don’t know why I am always so worried about controlling something I never will. πŸ™‚

      Good luck with your studies!

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  17. Pingback: The work-life balance myth | My Year Of Initiation

  18. From the other side: I had a stay at home mom, and while she was always there, as I got older, she was STILL always there. It ended up being hurtful both to me, and to her, I think. I felt stifled and she never felt good about herself because she felt that next to working mom’s she wasn’t doing as much with her life. I think I would have preferred that my mom worked so she could have strong identity and set an example for me of how to be a hard working woman who can have her own life and have kids!

  19. I hated to work my butt off just pay $$$ for someone else to do what I wanted to do…raise my kids. I didn’t have family to help out. I quit working and stayed at home when the kids were 3 to 5 yrs old. When I was usually on the floor, or playground, or covered in kid slobber, nice clothes weren’t necessary. Preschoolers don’t need expensive toys or clothes either (Lived at the thrift store). We saved money on kid care and I learned how to cook, which I think was the biggest saving of all. I never missed the kids, and they never missed me. When they finally went to school, they were ahead of the curve because I taught them to read before Kindergarten. Stay at home is not so bad if you don’t mind being broke (but really happy) for a couple of years.

    You seem to have a wonderful family oriented support system while you are at work. It’s good to have the peace of mind knowing that someone who really loves your son is caring for him like you would if you were there. It’s stay at home love, but you also get to bring home a paycheck…Now that’s good balance! Great job and nice post!

    • Your post was so inspiring! I love how you proved, you CAN make it work. You just have to live simply (not extravagantly) and relish the small things.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Aun Aqui

    • I do know how fortunate I am to have a family support system. Having taught early childhood for a few years, I assure you there is excellent care for children out there. I absolutely loved my kids, but I had to give them back to their moms and dads each day. All the best to you! πŸ™‚

  20. I can relate. While I don’t have a flesh-and-blood HUMAN child, I have a German Shepherd boy that I’ve been raising since he was a puppy and he is my baby. I hate working 40 hours a week, going to school four nights a week, and finding that the time I have left, for him, is so limited. For me, play-time and cuddle-time are our quality time, and I crave it while I’m away from him. I also hate leaving him alone. Wish I could bring him to the office with me.. I know he’d behave himself and just lay by the foot of my swivel chair, but coworkers and customers walking in might take offense/ become terrified.

    Best wishes in your endeavor to balance life with work!
    Let me know if you figure it out.
    Aun Aqui

  21. I’ve written about this topic numerous times. I think flexiblity is more important than the mythic work/life balance, as there is always an imbalance of sorts! I do look at short videos or photos of my kids to brighten my day. I also make the most of my quality time. My husband is home with the kids (or family members) but I’ve also had nanny help at one point. In all cases, they are also cleaning and cooking a lot, dealing with bills and household logistics, browsing the web etc, not playing with the kids all day like I imagine!

    • I would do well to listen to you. I am so rigid with routine and schedules. Certainly I need to be more flexible and let some things happen as they happen. πŸ™‚

  22. I hear you! I hate leaving my son at the daycare and miss him terribly when I am at work. I feel even more guilty when ends up getting sick every two weeks due to germs being passed on between kids. When at home, just try to spend quality time with him and the house work gets neglected. Its a never ending vicious circle.

  23. I used to nanny for an amazing family and I could only imagine how the mom felt leaving everyday. It must be so hard! I love the “Shit ___ says” videos and this one is hilarious!

  24. There’s just no easy solution to this age-old dilemma. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever a real solution. It’s a balancing act that is continual flux. I do think it’s important not to guilt trip ourselves. It’s not productive or fair. We do the best we can, and we should focus on all we ARE doing, and not what is undone. Each mother and child and family has such different needs and situations, too. Each woman has her own strengths and skills she brings to the table. Don’t compare. I like to remember that there’s no perfect Moms. There’s always something that seemingly “perfect” working Mom in the magazine or down the street from you does not do as well as you. Enjoy each day as it comes. Just as soon as we think we’ve figured out a good routine, everything changes! It’s the life of being “Mom”. As your child grows you will find that everything will keep changing and morphing. My “baby” just turned 18 this month. It’s been so bitter-sweet. Looking back, I can’t help wishing I had somehow had “spent more time” with my children. But, talking to all of my mommy friends, I’ve found that even stay-at-home moms have the same regrets. Those same moms also have regrets they did not enter the workforce sooner. It’s the “grass is greener” syndrome I suppose. In the end, Life goes by so quickly. Enjoy each day and be thankful for the challenges.
    Cheers, MoSop

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure babies turn 18 before we know it! And you’re right… grass always seems greener on the other side. Thanks for mentioning the SAHM who wish they had gone back to work. πŸ™‚

  25. New plan: Bring your life to work. How? Hollow out your largest filing cabinet ( scan documents into computer as getting fired would be counterproductive ). Inside your new space create the perfect environment for a one year old, complete with bed, toys etc. This will make it so you’re with child all of the time and whenever your boss walks in for that report, close the cabinet.

    Bam! Life balanced.

  26. I don’t have any kids, and not going to. However I am the kid of working parents and my sister is a working mother of four. There is no such thing as work and life being in balance – sometimes it is more of one and less of the other. What there is, is balanced kids. My parents did not make every event I had as kid, they didn’t always tuck me in, and sometimes the lunches I took to school weren’t completely nutritiously balanced. I never once did I doubt I was loved. Never once did I think that my sisters and I weren’t the most important thing in their lives. I see my sister doing the best she can (which with respect to all the parents here, she is the best mom in the whole world) and see how secure, loved, and balanced her kids are.
    Being a parent has to be the most difficult job in the world (well if you do it right). There are so many ways parents are measuring themselves (I haven’t met one yet who has said they measure up), and/or being measured by others. Leave the work/life balance measurement behind. Measure the love you have for your child, the independence of your child, the happiness of your family (whatever your family is). Parents have it hard enough (even though it may be a labor of love) to have this ridiculous standard to measure up to.

    • Wow! So nicely said! Thank you for sharing your unique perspective on this.

      You are totally right. We should leave all the silly measurements behind and only measure the love we have for our children.

      Thanks again for sharing this! πŸ™‚

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  28. Oh boy, yep. I hear ya!

    To me, being a working mom to be feels like a math problem that I cannot solve; a word that is just on the tip of my tongue; if only I could just figure it out…

    I think the figuring out is the the secret. That there is no figuring out, perhaps. πŸ™‚

    The laundry doesn’t get done consistently, but we enjoy the little ones while they are little perhaps?

    Let me know if you learn the secret!


  29. I hear you. Last year, I left a fulfilling job (which required me to work 12-hour days) as an in-house lawyer to stay home to take care of my family. Co-workers didn’t believe I could do it (I believe there’s a running bet to this day as to how long before I’m back in the office). But I have managed to stay happy (the hardest part is adjusting to not having your own money). Just this week, however, I received a generous offer from my former employer to return to work part-time. I am hopeful I can find that “balance” somehow doing this. I’m crossing my fingers, for both of us. Good luck and hang in there!

  30. Hmmm…I think there is no right answer here.

    All I can say is keep doing your best and stop feeling guilty or trying to look for some magical solution. Everything you are doing you do for your child and that should be enough reassurance that you’re on the right track.

    • I wish there was a pill or easy solution to the way parents constantly feel as though they could be doing their job as mom or dad a little bit better than they are. Parenting is one of the toughest, most important jobs there is. πŸ™‚

  31. Love the blog! Thank you for sharing the same thoughts I have had about Bigfoot analogous to work-life balance, seems nearly impossible. And totally understandable as your little one is SUPER cute! Masha’Allah.

    Thank you for sharing! πŸ˜€

    • Although I don’t have the opportunity to spend as much time as I like with my son, I certainly do appreciate the time we do spend together. πŸ™‚

  32. Being mom is really difficult, it’s a 24/7 job…without salary or compensation but you can receive benefit, LOVE… I recognize you as one of the best mom… from now on I’ll try my best to show my love with my mom… πŸ™‚

  33. Finally catching up over here…way behind! I love this post and almost wet myself watching the video. Funny that I read this today. Little guy just moved up to the 18 month old room at daycare and the director took the time to email me pictures of how he’s doing and how he looked on his big-boy cot. That’s why I continue to send my three kids there. And I love your comment replies…very well written!

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