By Michelle Lifschitz, Manager, CohnReznick LLP
“Wow, you are so lucky!” exclaimed a colleague I had not seen in quite some time. She was reflecting on my good fortune to be working a flexible schedule that suited me, my employer, and my family’s needs. “I am stressed out all the time, and I can’t seem to find work-life balance whether I am working in an organization or even working for myself,” she remarked.
Reflecting back on that conversation —one I have had multiple times with many different women as an executive coach and a specialist in women’s initiatives – I began to wonder: Have I truly acquired that holy grail of working motherhood? Have I attained that ever so elusive work-life balance? Surprising myself, I would answer with a resounding “No!”
See that’s just it – balance is elusive. It is often unstable, impulsive, and fragile. In my experience, every time you achieve balance, it can quickly go away. It takes just one little thing – an unexpected deadline at work, a sick kid or family member, a last minute business trip, a missed school bus – and our expectations of balancing our personal and professional lives are vanquished for the foreseeable future.
This has given me pause. A pause long enough to suggest that perhaps we need to reconsider the goal. Let’s face it. We work and live in a chaotic environment of consistent and continuing change. Every time you think you have found the balance that works for you, I can guarantee that it will be short-lived as something is bound to change. So, what can we do? Well, for starters, let’s revisit the expectations. I propose we give up on balance and strive for work-life synergy.
Why synergy? Synergy implies an ebb and flow of energy that, when combined, has a greater effect on the outcome. Sometimes, we need to ramp up at work and sometimes we need to be more present in our personal endeavors. By understanding that our personal and professional worlds are in a constant state of flux, we can strive for the overall effect instead of a static, precarious moment where those tricky scales stop moving and actually hang at even lengths. It empowers us to make conscious choices and trade-offs about how and where we spend our time in striving for our personal and professional well-being.
By focusing on the big picture, I let go of guilt a long time ago. I stopped counting how many days I spent traveling for business. How many times I sent the babysitter to drive my carpool. How many times I came late to the office or phoned into a parent-teacher conference. The list goes on and on. Instead, I ask a lot of questions to my children, my employer, and to myself. If I am meeting my career objectives, my employer’s expectations of my performance, and my children’s needs, experiences, and perceptions, am I not both the employee and the mom I want to be? I have found synergy.
Michelle Lifschitz is a manager at CohnReznick and seasoned human resources professional with deep expertise in learning and development, diversity initiatives, and talent management. At CohnReznick, Michelle drives the initiatives of the Firm’s WomenCAN program and various diversity efforts. WomenCAN was launched by the Firm in 2005 to provide access to mentors, roundtable discussions with firm partners, leadership development courses and other professional growth opportunities.
To learn more, contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.