Why work-life balance is my favorite oxymoron

Guest post by Cindy Lopez (Lady Goo Goo)
baby foot!

Balancing working and raising children is something that many parents everywhere struggle with on a daily basis. No matter if woman reports directly to her CEO or her toddler, many of us would laugh off the notion of getting it completely right. And as I sit outside the south tunnel on a New Jersey Transit train that has been infinitely delayed heading into New York City, it has occurred to me that I’m not going to be the first to perfect it.

Here’s the thing — I have an awesome job. The career path I chose to follow as a Public Relations professional is one that is both challenging and rewarding. But it’s not just the career I chose that makes my job an awesome one. No, it’s the place I work that makes my job truly fantastic.

I’ve been a part of my company now for almost seven years. I’ve worked in Los Angeles, San Francisco and now New York. My current employer is where I’ve grown up and it’s also where I’ve met my most valuable mentors and friends along the way. This place is quite literally my home away from home, and has not only supported me in my career objectives, but also in my life goals.

My husband and I own a home that’s not exactly in an ideal “commuter city” and my employer grants me the flexibility to work from home on certain days. It’s a privilege that comes with responsibility, but without it I’d probably go insane.

On the days I work from home, I am lucky enough to wake up with my baby, get in some good cuddle time, feed her breakfast and then venture upstairs to my home office as my own mother faithfully takes over between the hours of 9am and 6pm(ish).

Because of the flexibility of my job, I have been able to breastfeed my baby longer than I thought I would. I’ve watched her eat solid food for the first time. I’ve run downstairs when word came that she was on the move, crawling! I am often able to hear her laughter in the middle of the day when I need a pick me up. And I have the most important lunch meetings ever.

Conversely, when I travel to the city, my routine is not easy. I leave before my baby wakes up and I get home after she’s fast asleep. It’s very expensive and takes a total of five hours in commuting time per day.

When I am home, I am not without scheduling challenges there either. I am virtually always on the clock. I work East and West Coast hours. I can’t always go to my child when she cries during the day, and I might miss a bath or a bedtime even when I’m under the same roof.

Although a lifestyle like mine might have been considered unusual just a few years ago, it’s now become a way of the world. I value the flexibility I have in my job and the trust that my bosses have in me. They know how hard I work and never question my ability to produce results – it’s my duty to keep their confidence.

The fact is, my work-life balance may never reach a place of total zen. But I am proud to be a hard worker on the job, and at home, who is supported by my firm and my family as I continue to try to get it just right anyway.

Comments on Why work-life balance is my favorite oxymoron

  1. Being a few weeks away from returning to work after having a child, the title of your post caught my eye. My employer is somewhat flexible with the hours I work as long as I work at least 37.5 hours per week. But there will be no working from home, and I face 2 hours of commuting everyday, being out of the house for at least 10 hours per day. It makes me cringe to think about it.
    It also brings up larger issues for me about the “American Dream” I didn’t know I was chasing, and how unbalanced the American lifestyle is with work expectations. This has become even more apparent to me as I think about my return to work. I’m glad to see that many companies are offering flexible work circumstances – I just wish I worked for one! Maybe some day…

  2. I hate the idea that work-life balance is something we are supposed to be able to achieve, and if we don’t we’ve failed. It’s a constant juggling act, and something ALWAYS has to be given up. Once I rejected the whole idea that “balance” is achievable, I found it much easier to deal with the reality.

    Congratulations on having such an accommodating employer. Can you share any tips or stories about negotiating your hours and work situation?

  3. You are very lucky to have a supportive employer! Mine requires me to use my vacation time every time I need to pump. Meanwhile smokers get unlimited, un-timed breaks. 🙁

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