Balancing between love and work
If you identify your priorities and stick to them, you'll find you can have it all — in moderation
Does balancing your work and home life feel like you're walking a tightrope? (Doable, Photodisc photo / September 7, 2011)
Both genders affected
While the struggle for work-life balance is often associated with working moms, men actually experience more work-family conflict than women, according to a 2008 survey from the nonprofit Families and Work Institute. Traditional pressures men feel to be breadwinners, combined with new pressures to be more involved in family life and workplaces that don't fully support those dual roles, has resulted in what researchers termed the "new male mystique."
Leo Babauta remembers his breaking point: It was a Saturday in 2005; he was a speechwriter for the governor of Guam and furiously trying to crank out the annual State of the Island speech when he had to call his wife to say he couldn't make it to his son's soccer game. The disappointment brought him to tears.
"My life was upside-down," Babauta said. "I was spending the most amount of time on the stuff I didn't really like and the least amount on the stuff that was most important to me."
Babauta made a long list of the commitments in his life, from his soccer coaching gig to his post on the parent-teacher board, and then a short list of the four things that were most important to him: spending time with family, writing, reading and running.
Babauta trimmed commitments that didn't fit with his priorities, starting with the easy ones, like going to fewer parties, and ending three years later with the scariest, which was quitting his job.
Now living in San Francisco with his wife and six children, Babauta, 38, has quit smoking, lost 70 pounds, become a vegetarian and eliminated debt. He writes the blog zenhabits.net, one of Time magazine's top blogs in 2009 and 2010, to share the joys of a simplified life.
"The exact balance isn't really important," Babauta said. "It's just creating the space for what's important to you."
Making room for relationships
To cope with work demands, many people put their romantic relationships on autopilot, which leaves both partners unsatisfied and at greater risk of seeking other avenues to fulfill their emotional needs, said Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and the chief relationship expert at the dating site Perfect-Match.com.
While prioritizing work is understandable when a project or crisis demands a person's full-time attention, it can go on for only so long before a relationship needs some play and affection to counteract the malaise.
"Co-presence is not the same as being in a relationship," Schwartz said. "They have to remember their partner is their lover and that has to be preserved."
Maintaining a date night without kids and where there's motivation to dress up is important, Schwartz said. Couples should carve out time for talking, set guidelines for how to keep the relationship romantic, and pay attention to sex, which is the main thing that differentiates a romantic relationship from a friendship.
The neglected partner, who usually is the first to raise the alert, can help by suggesting specific solutions, such as getting tickets to a baseball game or asking for a Sunday together, rather than complaining, "I never see you," which is too big and vague for an already-stressed person to tackle.
As for breaking the news to an employer that the office isn't your only love, it's usually less scary than people think.
"Sometimes it's not that your work doesn't understand," Schwartz said. "It's you who feels like you need to be available all the time, giving 110 percent, when in fact you could probably give work 95 percent and give 15 percent to your partner."