How a Non-Superhero Handles the Work/Life Dilemma

“Work/life balance” is a misleading term that many of us strive to adhere to, but rarely do. More commonly, it references a desired state of being, but in reality it is the wrangling of two powerful forces competing for our time and attention. Given that work consumes entire decades of our lives, my approach has been to adopt a saner, more sustainable strategy—one that honors the multidimensional unpredictability that life brings. For me, that approach is called work/life integration, and the key is finding purpose in all I do and being present in each moment.

Finding purpose in my life comes easily; as a single mom I pour my heart and energy into being the best parent I can be for my daughter, who manages to make a family dinner or a trip to the post office meaningful. Finding purpose in my work also comes easily; as the leader in the K-12 educational staffing space, my organization and I help improve educational outcomes for students. While I love both roles—mom and leader—the laws of physics say I can’t be 100 percent present for both at the same time. That’s where the more fluid notion of integration comes in. It’s a continuum that better represents how most of us live. Some days my work demands my focus well beyond the typical eight-to-five schedule; other days I’m fully present at teacher conferences and school concerts. The trick is being centered on the purpose at hand, and fully present in whatever moment I’m in.

I’ve accepted that I’m not a superhero—far from it—and I’ve learned to be kind to myself when I feel like I’m failing in one area or the other. I’ve also learned there are things that can set me up for success: taking 15 minutes every night to list the next day’s tasks and intentionally budget my time; openly modeling work-life integration for my organization, so they feel equally empowered; and making a point of eating well, getting enough sleep, and keeping healthcare appointments, so that I can be my best self at every point of the work-life continuum.

Work-life integration honors us as the complete, imperfect, unbalanced humans we truly are. It is a movement whose time has come and I for one am grateful for the conversation.