Work life balance is a myth!

By Rhonda Brighton-Hall | May 01, 13 07:03 AM

Rhonda Brighton-Hall thinks work life balance is impossible! Here she shares why.

I decided today that work life balance is a 1990s myth!

It’s dividing us girls, and we need to stop it. I decided it when a great friend of mine, who’s done really well and is now one of Australia’s most successful businesswomen, was criticised for working hard. The exact comment (made by a woman) was “She works like a man. That’s how she’s made it”.

Since when did we start criticising single mums, who work really hard and do well, without missing parent teacher nights or Saturday sports? And since when did working hard become the exclusive domain of men? Somewhere along the line lately, working hard became something to be embarrassed about. You’re almost a better person by taking Wednesdays off, or leaving at 3pm.

My nanna was a farmer. She worked hard and she worked long hours. She did not take Wednesdays off, and 3pm was a moment in time midway through a busy day. She stood by her husband, and raised five kids who all went on to become good contributors to society and nice people. My mum can vouch for her mothering skills, and I can vouch that she was an awesome grandmother. She loved life, always packed too much in. She travelled the world in her 70s, and worked in ‘old folks homes’ and women’s refuges into her late 80s. She was always busy, yet she always had time for a chat and never seemed tired. She loved life, and she loved it full-to-overflowing.

I must admit, I’ve followed the model. My life is FULL! I love what I do. I love my job. I work really hard, and give it my best. I love my children and my husband too, and I give them everything I have. I have a bunch of great girlfriends that I love seeing. I work for Autism, and I love the difference I can make in some small way there as well. People ask me “When do you have time for yourself?” and, I’m always perplexed – “To do what?” I ask back. Frankly, life is too much fun, and there’s too much great stuff to do, to hang out contemplating my own navel.  So, what is this new fandangled thing called work life balance? I suspect it’s just another hurdle to pop up in front of women to add some guilt and another measure to the right way to live life. Another expectation against which we can be judged …often harshly.  Or worse still, against which we can harshly judge ourselves.

How about we settle for this – we each get one life. I can pack mine full. It will be more chaotic than ideal, and I’ll be late for dinner occasionally. My girls will learn that even mums are fallible. You can live yours differently. Have Wednesdays off. Leave at 3pm. Spend time alone. We’ll be happy for each other, and completely respect our personal choices. We’ll bury “work/life balance” back in the 1990s where it belongs. Instead, we’ll rejoice in the million different points we can each choose to live along the total chaos to perfect order continuum that is life. By the way, I wrote this at 9.30pm, watching a movie, after the kids went to bed.  

Rhonda Brighton-Hall is General Manager, Human Resources, Retail Bank at Commonwealth Bank of Australia

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