Is There Such Thing as Work-Life Balance?

We want to have it all – a balanced life, with a successful career, a warm family, great friends and hobbies and some time for ourselves. But is it truly possible, or is it just an urban myth? Can we actually achieve work-life balance?

A short and witty video from The School of Life tends to argue we cannot:

They argue in the video that, while we can juggle many balls in the air in the same time, we cannot devote the same resources to multiple areas, at the same intensity. So we can have perfectly fine careers and private activities, but having it all is an utopia.

Let’s look at some successful people and their family lives:

  • Albert Einstein – the developer of the theory of relativity. He was married twice, once for 16 years and the second time for 17, until his wife Elsa died. He had 2 sons with his first wife. In terms of hobbies, he had time to enjoy sailing and play the violin.
  • Roger Federer – one of the best tennis players in history, is married since 2009 with Mirka Vavrinec. They have together two sets of twins, two girls and two boys.
  • Barack Obama – president of the US. He is for sure a very busy person. He has been married with Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama since 1992, and they have two girls together. He is very fond of exercising and a Harry Potter fan.
  • Bill Gates, the man behind Microsoft, is as well happily married to Melinda Gates since 1994. They have three kids together. He is an avid bridge player, and loves tennis in his spare time.
  • Oprah Winfrey – America’s first lady of talk shows. She has been dating Stedman Graham since 1986, but stated she will never marry him.

To read more about interesting hobbies of CEOs, check this article.

We can, of course, not know what is happening behind closed doors. Public figures show themselves in the best light. However, many successful persons appear to be supported by loved ones, more or less publicly. People get married, people build families. Is it a requirement of our society or is it just because we simply operate better with a strong support system behind us? We do need love around to feel accomplished.

There is also this myth of people who want to focus 100% on their careers and state they don’t have enough time for fruitful relationships. Yes, fitting everything in your life can be tricky, but with the right person by your side and great time management skills, it can be done. Communication is the key – setting expectations and investing in your loved one as much as possible in the spare time. This way, they would feel wanted and respected, and they will support you in your actions.

LifebalanceSome say that if you want a successful career, you should make sacrifices in your workplace. That building a strong, happy family requires you to put less hours at the office. Is this the real issue, or the fact that our competitive market has made it so difficult to keep our work during working hours? 8 hours per day – isn’t that enough? Do we work so long hours because there is so much work to do, or because our productivity levels are very low, and we spend long breaks scrolling social media?

It depends from case to case, and there are many careers that do require extensive work. However, all normal jobs offer free time and holidays, and finding a balance should be possible. Especially for successful, well-positioned people, that have the resources to hire help. Can it be that you work so long hours because you haven’t been introduced to the wonders of delegating? Invest some time into finding a skillful right hand, that can make your life easier. Learn to trust this person and leave earlier on a Friday to spend more time with your loved ones.

I am a firm believer that you can have it all. Looking around, I see it happening – my grandma is my greatest example. She had a wonderful, long marriage, two healthy kids, a great accounting carreer and wonderful friends. She retired in her 60s, and was then asked back to work for 10 extra years. She raised my mother and my uncle to be successful professionals. She loved my grandfather until the end and raised me, her granddaughter, untul school years. She would regularly meet her friends for rummy on Sundays, and she’s the most amazing cook ever. How did she do it all? Great organization skills, supportive family, and resillience. And last, but not least – by not wondering whether it can be done, but just doing it instead.

This is for her, Eleonora – my rolemodel.

Would You Rent a Friend?

It seems like nowadays we are too busy being alone with our gadgets, that we forgot how to ‘friend’ anymore. It started with the Tinder-revolution, since apparently it got more and more difficult to meet people the old traditional ways. However, now we are applying this to friends, really?

What happens to our generation, that we cannot interact with those around us? People have been happy and social for centuries, without Facebook or thousands of interactive apps that make them forget how to look each other in the eye. We go through life burried in screens – smartphone, laptop, tablet or TV…If this is not an alarm-signal, what is?

Friends_and_gadgetsI came across today by the website Rentafriend.com. Pretty genius, some would say. I still fail to see this though – it feels more like tragic to me. The website offers you the option to rent somebody to be your prom date, go with you to gym or to family events, to be your wingman/wingwoman or just hang out with you. A world of opportunities, and they propose you available friends in your region.

This feels worse than Tinder – at least there, you get to interact with somebody, and if you discover things in common, they might date you. For free though!

There are two questions that come to my mind in the first second:

  1. We really have no one in our circle of friends, co-workers, family at least that could be our friend or accompany us to these events?
  2. Is it better to go with someone you rent than to go alone?

First of all – how do we end up alone? I cannot imagine that I couldn’t find anyone around me that would like to hang out with me. Nobody to interact with? May it be because I’ve been spending my days trapped inside my home, swapping TV channels and feeling bored? What about going out for a drink, and maybe meeting somebody? What about trying the public library and maybe run into somebody with similar interest? What about trying a gathering place (a party, a backpackers club, couchsurfing, any place where people meet each other)?

Oh, is that scary? Or is it that I really cannot meet anybody I find interesting? Gosh, what can be the reason for that? Maybe I am looking for somebody who has blue eyes, lives in my neighbourhood and loves Minecraft? Well, then maybe rentafriend.com is the best place for me.

It seems like some of us have become so picky with our relationships and so much risk-adverse, that computerized match-making seems the only option. Isn’t it awesome to get to pick a friend I know I would like? Who need to be adaptable, understanding or…make compromises? What is that? Why would I do something I don’t like for somebody else? Isn’t it easier to just pick online somebody who wants to do what I want? Oh, shoud I pay for that? Sure, why not! At least I don’t risk being rejected. At least I know what I’m getting into and I get to choose what we do. They will like me anyway, I made sure of it by throwing out some bucks. Great!

aloneandonlineSarcasm aside, we really need to stop and reflect on our actions and the turn this society is taking. We are becoming so afraid of face-to-face communication – is it maybe because we don’t know how it works anymore? An interesting article discussed the implications of sceen-time on the way we communicate. Of course, writing to somebody is easier that actually meeting them. Expressing our emotions via a screen or a emoticon makes everything easier – we don’t even need to clearly articulate our feelings – there are yellow little things that transmit this information for us. The more time people spend interacting through digital channels, the lesser affection they attach to that relationship.

We need personal touch, and we need relationships around us to be happy and fulfilled. Therefore, we cannot get our share of human contact from texts alone. But we are so used to this avoidant type of communication, that it might be tricky to actually hold a face-to-face, live conversation. In this case, I cannot just close a chat window when a disagreement appears. I am next to a person that deserves my attention and respect. The importance of these things is much smaller or less noticed in the virtual world. But strong, real relationships need these ingredients to function properly. And we seem to be on the path of forgetting about their importance.

Friendship takes effort. And part of being a friend is strongly related to understanding another human being, being there for them, making oneself likeable and express emotions to somebody who cares. These aspects are altered, if not innexistent, when you decide to rent a friend. What are you truly getting out of that?

beingalone

This leads me to the second aspect I mentioned earlier. I may decide to rent a friend, due to the fact that I am afraid of going somewhere alone. But why is that?

Is it the society dictating me that I cannot go to a restaurant alone? Why do I always need a date? When into a restaurant, I sometimes look around to discover how many of the customers are on their phone. Doing that is more acceptable when they are alone – but when they are with their friends, what is the explanation?

An article from 2014 shows a message from a restaurant to its clients, asking them to be more considerate with their time. They claim the average consumer spends 50 more minutes now in the restaurant than they did in 2004, and they blame it on smartphone use. Pictures, WiFi issues and other distractions are increasing the time they waste in the restaurant, therefore causing longer delays for other consumers and for the waiters.

Why am I going to restaurants? To avoid cooking and washing dishes, this is definitely on the top of my list! However, if I go there with a friend, I want to enjoy his/her company, spend quality time, without needing to worry about the heat of the sauce or bringing the dessert in time. It’s just our time, somebody else serves us the food, so I can finally spend precious time with those I care about.

What happens when I decide that whatever happens on Facebook is more important than the person I am with? Do I really need to show the world what we are eating? Where we are, whom we are with…why is that?

More to this, spending more time looking in a screen than in the others’ eyes…Is it lack of respect, sign of addiction or just habit? Habit of ‘multi-tasking’, of checking news and cleaning the house while chatting on messenger with a friend. We can do all that simultaneously, it’s not like we are missing any part of the conversation. We are still there, right? Who says it needs to be 100%?

If we are not willing to invest undivided attention to the person we are sharing our meal with (this is just an example, it can be theater show, bowling or wedding), then why can’t we just go alone in the first place? If we don’t care enough about our friends to maintain a healthy friendship, which would increases the chances of them joining us for free…then why do we pay to have somebody accompany us?

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Renting a friend awakens very strong emotions inside me, since it’s a stronger sign of how bad we’re having it. More development, more gadgets, cooler apps and more time spent in front of a screen. Is this what we want our life to be?