Articles about work/life balance always separate these things as if work is work and life is going for long walks on the beach and drinking a piña colada at sundown. The implication is always that work is not fun, while life is nothing but relaxing times spent on photogenic pillow fights. But, for those of us who love our artistic work, sometimes the problem with work/life balance is that life is taking up too much of our time and taking us away from the work we love. And what do we do then?
The implication is always that work is not fun, while life is nothing but relaxing times spent on photogenic pillow fights.
When my daughter was born, I was shocked at how difficult I found motherhood. I was unprepared for the grueling hours, lack of sleep, and at my general feeling of complete incompetence. Years spending in school and then in the workforce had convinced me that I was more competent at most things than most people. When I became a mom, I discovered that “most things” did not include opening a stroller.
Three weeks into my maternity leave, an editor called to ask if I could do a quickie book project. She was apologetic and not too hopeful that I would take the project, but I snapped it up in a heartbeat. “I just want to feel like I’m good at something,” I told her. I had to carve out the time to do the writing, but I did it because I wanted to.
The Only Constant Is Change
There are periods in our lives—sometimes long periods lasting several years—in which either work or life (or both) feel as if they are taking too large a claim on our existence. At these times, it’s important to remember the principle of impermanence. For several years, my writing took a backseat to motherhood. But that did not mean that my writing disappeared completely. During that time, I was engaged in another incredibly creative pursuit—raising a child.
Now, my child is older, and she doesn’t need me as much as she used to. She’s still young, but it’s nothing like the years when she couldn’t feed herself, use the toilet by herself, get herself dressed, amuse herself, etc. And now, a larger portion of my creative energy can turn back to my work. I no longer have to scribble at stoplights, like Jackie Collins.
But this is the point—even scribbling at stoplights is progress. Sometimes progress is slow. Sometimes progress is rapid. The important thing is to keep making progress. It’s easier to keep going than it is to stop completely and try to get started again. (Just ask any physicist.) Whatever part of your life is taking the most of your attention now, remember that things will shift and change. Keep walking toward the mountain, and eventually, you will find yourself at the top.