Work Life Balance: What Is It?

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Cold in Upstate NY

We visited chilly Rochester, NY, last week, to visit family and participate in the wedding of Tom’s youngest child. As former residents of the area, the cold and snow were annoying, but not surprising. Lake effect snow and brutally cold temperatures are just memories at this point, since we’re now settled in sunny Colorado, but long winters full of dreary cold, gray skies and deep snow are still fresh enough to make us glad we no longer have to endure them.

The wedding was perfect! The bride glowed. There was frivolity and laughter and lots of crazy dancing! Interestingly, the ceremony was held at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, and the reception was also. The atmosphere was full of historical significance, a preponderance of warm tones and marvelous artwork softening the brittleness of the icicles dangling precariously from the rooftop outside. The warmth of the good people inside, the rock and roll tunes vibrating the very walls and the scrumptious food overflowing our plates negated the shivering temperatures and slippery streets outside.

Officially Off Line!

Our weekend began with a two hour drive in blinding snow from Rochester to Binghamton, where we spent three days with the little grandchildren. It was both exhausting and invigorating. Those kids kept us hopping with one thing or another. A four-year-old and five-month-old will do that to you! One of the kitties in the home (there are two) adopted Tom, as pictures shared on Facebook attest. We barely checked email or Facebook or any other social media channel, while there, however. We were officially off-line. Imagine that!

Tom Abby Frankie

When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s easy to spend more time on business than pleasure. Oftentimes, it’s essential. Vacation is something other people do – people who are paid as part of their employment to take time off to regroup and relax, at least once a year. For those of us who run our own businesses, vacation is a foreign concept. Never doubt that BlogPaws is OUR business – yes, we have been acquired, but we are still as responsible for the success of this business as we ever were; being part of a bigger firm does not change that! So, for those of us who are in charge of the running of a growing business that serves both the consumer market (in our case, bloggers), and the business market (all those brands you work with each month), there is little time off that does not include work.

Because of the need to always be “available,” we sometimes lose sight of what advisors now call “the work-life balance.” For us, the balance tips in favor of work. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not always a good thing, when you neglect life in favor of work, but, as one friend of mine used to say, “If you love what you do, work is play,” in her matter-of-fact voice, as she turned to straighten her toddler’s t-shirt, and wipe the cookie crumbs off of his face.

Work is Play

The conversation ended for my friend, when she declared, “Work is play.” It was simple for her. She was a Pediatric Nurse in a doctor’s office. She showered every morning, dressed, gave the sitter her instructions for the day and drove off to her job. She collected a paycheck at the end of the week, and scheduled vacations according to availability of her time and her husband’s time. Yes, it was a chosen career, she was happy with it, she was fulfilled, and for the most part, her hours were regular, but… to say it was “play” confused me. That seemed to say her work was frivolous. Which it wasn’t, of course.

Dogs at Play BlogPaws

Still, I embraced her concept as well as I could, happy with my own “work is play” life.

I rose each day, as I do now, dressed, brushed my teeth, made my way downstairs to my office, and, after making coffee, I got to work. I sat at my computer and did what needed doing. Occasionally, I went out to networking groups or events, to meet possible clients or connect with current clients. I made a lot of phone calls. I did a lot of paperwork. The day flew by in a flurry of activity designed to gain me business so I could pay bills. (and yes, I broke for walks with the dogs now and then)

On weekends, I often did the same thing. While my friend was off doing family things, or having a few moments of free time with her husband or family, I was checking blogs and podcasts, responding to emails, studying up on SEO and more. I didn’t feel overworked or unhappy. I was fulfilled, much as I am now. But, I didn’t feel as if my “work” was… play. It was… work. Work I enjoyed, but work, nonetheless.

Finding the Balance

I am neither a business coach nor a philosopher, although I play one occasionally. Just not on TV. (Grins!)

I have been chasing the work/life balance idea as long as anyone. When folks say all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl, I laugh. Perhaps that’s so – but, just because I step away from the computer, just because I am not doing something “else,” doesn’t mean it’s all play… an effort to prevent myself from being dull! After all, cleaning house is work. Studying new tactics, tools and strategies, is work. Traveling is work of the highest order! At least, to me, it is.

Life. Is. Work. Sometimes…

That’s what I think. Everything we do is work. When we do get to play, sometimes that’s work, too. If I’m not in the mood to play, but I’m required to do so, it’s a job and I perform it to the best of my abilities.

Play is something that is relaxing and refreshing. One generally enjoys it. Hiking is play, when you’re doing it for recreation purposes. Walking the dogs is play. Sometimes reading a book is play. Play allows us to reach back into our past and remember our childhood – long summers spent outdoors with other kids, inventing games, chasing each other around trees, laughing, rolling downhill at the park, building sand castles at the beach, basking in days that sparkled like drops of dew poised on the tips of bright green grass in your front yard.

Play is something you aspire to – it keeps you focused on your daily tasks. It’s one of the reasons we work.

I have surmised, over the years, that my friend was wrong. Work is not play. No matter how much I love my work, it is not a substitute for play. For me, play is the “balance” part of the work-life balance equation.

So, last week, Tom and I played. We played a lot! We were away from work and we enjoyed it. It restored the balance in our lives.

SelfieatElizWedding