If only we could figure out a way to achieve work/life balance, we'd be so much happier in every sphere of our lives, and so would the people who love us. That's the conventional wisdom, anyway.
I've done a lot of thinking about this and I can't say I agree. In fact, I believe we've been looking at this issue through the wrong lens. As a result, all we've accomplished, at least as far as I can tell, is to drive ourselves crazy. So here's my two cents: I don't think entrepreneurs can achieve work-life balance. What's more, I don't think we should even be trying.
When you're an entrepreneur, you don't have a job--at least not in the conventional sense of that word. You have a calling. And unlike a job, a calling defines you as a person. It's who you are.
That's why it's not realistic--or even advisable-- to ask an entrepreneur to shut the door on work at the end of the day. It's like asking someone to shut the door on their entire being. We don't become different people when we get to the office, so the idea that we can chop ourselves up into schizophrenic bits when we leave just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Those of us lucky enough to have a calling love what we do. We don't view work as something to be escaped or sloughed off at the end of the day. And that's something to celebrate, not feel bad about, in my opinion. Loving what you do every day so much that you don't want your workday to end—how awesome is that?
When you have a calling, you're always going to be juggling time and commitments. That's just the way it is. And you're not going to think about the various parts of your life as separate compartments, because, as I said, they're all fundamentally part of your identity. That's why it's frustrating to pick up a magazine and find articles about how entrepreneurs can and should juggle the various parts of their lives. Just once, I'd love to see an article that acknowledges the fact that there isn't any separation--and what's more, there shouldn't be.
The problem with the entrenched thinking is that it instills guilt. Buying into the notion that work and life are separate and should be perfectly, evenly balanced is a great way to make you feel that there's something wrong with you for failing to achieve it.
You'll read those articles and you'll figure there's some magic answer you're missing but that everybody else has figured out, and you'll decide that they must be better parents, partners or entrepreneurs than you are, because you're always falling short—so you'd better try harder. Well, I've been down that road and I'm back with some news from the front: that way lies madness.
A while back, when Nora Ephron passed away, I re-read a speech she once made to young (and all female) graduates at Wellesley College, her alma mater. Ephron said something that beautifully captures the way I feel about life and the entrepreneurial lifestyle: "Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands."
I love the idea of embracing the mess. I honestly believe that once you do your life will improve inordinately. Why? Because you'll be doing something that makes you feel happy and fulfilled, and in my experience when people are happy and fulfilled, many good things flow from that contentment, not only within their own lives, but outward, to the lives of those around them.
So what do you think? Do I have this all wrong? Should we still focus on trying to achieve that elusive balance between our professional and personal lives? I'd sure love to hear from you on this one.