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Work-Life Balance & Unicorns

I recently read an article posted on The Atlantic that explored the difficulties of balancing your professional and family life. There was one quote in particular that resonated with me:

"For the foreseeable future, balancing my family with my career would be the defining challenge of my life."

The defining challenge of my LIFE. Whoa. That’s big. But that’s exactly the truth.

I often feel like finding the perfect balance between my family life and career would be like finding a unicorn. It’d be like one magical, mysterious moment, and just when you’d laid your eyes on it, it’d disappear.

There’s a lot of talk about unicorns in my house these days. I have a 4 year old daughter, and most art projects consist of unicorns and rainbows. (Either that or she’s dressing up like a bald eagle and watching Wheel of Fortune. Did I mention she’s a complicated woman?) My daughter is passionate about unicorns, even though she understands that they aren’t real, and she will never actually see one. Her cousin once told her that unicorns poop rainbows, so I understand the allure.

However, I can’t help but feel a little sad for her, because I know that this one thing that would make her so happy, she’ll never get. She will never get to see a real live unicorn. And I have a similar feeling about this thing that would make me so happy. Can you imagine a day (all you working moms and dads) when you feel like you are killing it at work, and also being a fun, energetic, playful, creative, loving parent?

My heart just might implode.

So I often wonder if this quest for “work-life balance” is even attainable. Maybe it truly is like an imaginary unicorn, and therefore not even worth the chase?

What I know so far is that the key to feeling like things are somewhat in balance is listening. I’m trying to listen to myself, listen to my kids, listen to my husband and friends, and listen to God. That’s a lot of listening. And the problem with all the hustling in my career and in my parenting is that it leaves little time for listening. How can I listen and pay attention if I don’t even carve out the time to do so? Listening doesn’t happen when life is lived at full throttle.

My work-life balance unicorn is un-seeable without listening. I must rely on my very real, external world (husband, friends, kids, etc.) and my very real internal world (my feelings, my relationship with God, etc.) to give me cues on how to get things back on track.

This week, my unicorn/bald eagle/Wheel of Fortune-loving daughter said to me, “Mom, you’re always wookin’ at your phone.” (L’s are a bit tough for her still.) And she was right. So for now, putting things more in balance means putting away my phone for extended periods of time. I’m trying to listen. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m trying. And I’d like to think that showing her a mom who is responsive, present, and focused will be better than showing her a unicorn.

Amanda Cornelius is a licensed professional clinical counselor in private practice at Cornelius Counseling.

Original Photo courtesy of Lisa Brewster under the terms of Creative Commons Corporation

Original Photo courtesy of Lisa Brewster under the terms of Creative Commons Corporation

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