Work/Life Equity

Equinox is upon us. That time, just twice a year, when daylight and darkness are equal. Ahh, the balance of it all. And it happens only twice a year. Even our planet seems to understand that perfect balance just isn’t intended to happen all the time. So many people, on hearing the phrase work/life balance, either shrink in shame, rattle off their impossibly endless to-do lists, or just pretend not to hear.

Maybe it’s in the wording. “Balance” suggests equal amounts of time distributed evenly. Which is pretty much impossible right from the start. What if, instead, we changed it to work/life equity. No, really. Consider the difference: Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

In the case of work/life equity, this would mean allocating your time and energy based on the needs of various people and circumstances in your life in an attempt to reach equal satisfaction with each. And while most of us are stretched thin and it rarely feels like we can give the time and attention we want to all the facets of our lives, the notion of equity gives us room to at least negotiate with ourselves.

Without question there are periods of time when we dedicate most of our energy toward work, or school, or family, or community. Many people do their best to manage three at once. It simply can’t be equally balanced, but on a given day, or maybe during a period of time, you can consciously devote more of your energy in one direction, knowing you’ll be dedicating that energy differently as needs shift in priority.

What’s certain is the sense of inadequacy or shame that work/life balance tends to stir up in us is not remotely helpful. Those feelings drain energy, and along with it, our capacity to be present to whatever it is we think we are doing poorly.

When we can move past these feelings of not doing or being enough, we can be more clear-eyed and present to what is right in front of us. We can discern what and where to turn our attention. Needs shift and change all the time. With some curiosity and grace, maybe we can create more compassionate ways to assess our time management skills.

I, for one, am going to try on work/life equity as a way to make decisions about my time. I can feel the rightness of that. The sense that I am making choices based on real need, not based on a stopwatch.

So as we notice the balance of light and dark in the sky right now, be sure to notice how quickly that balance changes, as spring emerges and days lengthen. Balance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.