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Baby Matters

The Holy Grail of Work/Life Balance

January 3rd, 2017

By Delaine Dew

Now that 2017 is upon us, and we are mostly over our holiday cheer, getting back to a routine and enjoying winter in Edmonton may be on our agenda.  It’s also a time when us parents attempt to attain or regain that holy grail of “work/life balance.”  But honestly, being a full-time working mom as a busy lawyer in Edmonton and a mom of a busy 3 ½-year-old, I have concluded that the holy grail of “work/life balance” is really just that – a holy grail that in reality, for the majority of us, is not ever going to materialize.  And you know what?  We should be just fine with that.

Before I had my daughter, and was working brutal hours as an articling student-at-law in Calgary, I recall laughing with my other student-at-law and lawyer girlfriends about “work/life balance” if that phrase was ever mentioned because in our world, there really was no such thing.  I remember one night after working on a deal for days on end, laying on the semi-clean carpet of my friend’s office at 2am trying to get some sleep before having to go back downstairs to the closing room to organize countless documents for a closing the next afternoon, us both in yoga pants and messy hair, her working on another file during our self-imposed 2 a.m. “break”, and just laughing at ourselves.  Balance?  What balance?  It was actually fairly entertaining.  At one point another lawyer, also on the deal, walked past my friend’s office, gave one look at me and said, “you are actually sleeping on that floor?” my response of which was to simply say, “dude I don’t even care anymore I need, like, 20 solid minutes.”  Which looking back at it, is kind of how you feel when you are a new mom, and even at times when you are a not-so-new mom.

But gone are my days of corporate legal life in Calgary, having made the move to Edmonton and a government legal position for, unsurprisingly, more work/life balance years ago, and I have been fortunate enough to have a wonderful daughter and a little more free time.  However, despite hearing work/life balance touted everywhere you look, both in the legal community and the parent community, I firmly believe that we shouldn’t necessarily seek that “holy grail”, because as a parent, you really can’t ever truly attain it; and those who claim they have, must be aliens.

When I first had my daughter, my life was suddenly pulled in more directions than ever.  Directions towards my daughter; toward my health and fitness; toward my husband, friends, and family; toward my home; toward my desires to be the very best mom I possibly could.  This was exacerbated even more when I had to go back to work after my maternity leave, a move at the time I did not want to make but like many of us, for financial reasons and otherwise, I really had no choice.  I felt pulled between trying to be the best mom and the best lawyer I possibly could be, while still taking care of myself and my family.  I just couldn’t be perfect at everything and it took me a while to really grasp that and embrace that the idea isn’t to have the perfect balance in life, it’s just to do your best in your personal circumstances and not beat yourself up if those scales are not perfectly balanced.

For many of us parents, it’s not uncommon to think at the end of a busy and stressful day, “did I do enough?”, “did I give enough attention to my child?”, “did I give enough attention to my work?”, “did I give enough attention to my health?”, “did I let anything slide?”, and “how am I going to have or improve my work/life balance?”.  Honestly, no one can really have it all and there are always going to be pressure points in our lives and multiple directions we are pulled in.  Like the great J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins stated, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”  But you know what, sometimes that’s just parenting.

Perhaps for the new year, we can stop stressing about attaining the holy grail of work/life balance, and just do our best in our own personal circumstances.  Some days, or maybe even months, some areas of our lives may not be operating at our ideal because we are being pulled in different directions and need to prioritize.  As a parent, usually that means tipping the scale holding all of the other stuff down in favour of lifting the scale holding our child and his or her needs, and sometimes, more often than not, there really is no true balance.  Some days I clean my bathrooms at 9 p.m. because I have spent all day at work, all evening with my daughter, collapsing on my couch after she falls asleep, shamelessly ordering take-out dinner for me and my husband instead of going to spin class because I have no energy and no other foreseeable time that week to clean bathrooms.  But whatever, I got some stuff done, most importantly spending as much time as I could with my daughter, and didn’t spend a minute worrying about the holy grail.  In reality, the holy grail in this community of parenting is simply being a parent – present, supportive and loving.  Just throw “perfect balance” out with the bathwater and have a fantastic year.

Delaine is a mom to a beautiful, active and insightful little girl, and also stays busy as a wife and full-time lawyer in Edmonton. She enjoys running, reading, writing, watching bad TV with her husband and most importantly, being a mom.


Tags: advice, Babies, kids, Moms

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