MLA's next distance learning opportunity comes in a week with a program on "Finding Work-Life Balance: Strategies For You and Your Institution." Based on the agenda it looks like it'll be pretty good, although it defines the topic more narrowly than I would. The phrase, "work-life balance," seems to have come to focus principally on flexible work schedules, along with the introduction of some forms of wellness programs into the workday.
It is an important issue, but I don't think of it in terms of "balance." That seems to imply a simple duality -- there's work over on one side and life over on the other, and the challenge is to keep the stress and pressure of work from overwhelming all of the other aspects of one's life.
I find it to be more of a juggling act -- multiple priorities and responsibilities. Some of them have to do with my employer, some with my colleagues, some with my profession, some with my friends, some with my family, some to myself. What I'm after is a healthy, integrated approach towards the multiplicity. Since there's never enough time for everything, something always has to give. The challenge comes in deciding what and when.
This weekend, that was no problem. Lynn and Marian were out of town, so from the time I picked Josie up from school on Friday, I didn't have to spend a moment trying to figure out what came first.
At four years old, she's great fun to be with. Almost always in a good humor, and generally well behaved, she has a million interests, a marvelous imagination and great curiousity. It was rainy on Saturday, so we went to the McWane Science Center for a couple of hours. She loves the place. When I asked her on Sunday morning what she wanted to do today, she asked if we could go back to McWane. Sure, why not? I'm happy to do what she wants to do.
We took her dog out for long walks and watched a movie on the big screen every night. When I told her it was time for bed, she had me read her three stories and then she settled in without complaint. By then I was usually tired enough myself that I didn't do much more than get the kitchen cleaned up and do a little reading before sleep.
In the mornings, she sleeps later than I do, so I'd have some quiet time while I had my morning coffee and wrote in my journal for an hour or so. Then she'd appear, smiling and rested, ready to play. I did take a break Sunday afternoon when we got back from walking the dog. "I'm going to read for one hour, JoBug. I can put on a movie in the bedroom for you, or you can play on your own, but you have to leave me alone for one hour." She thought that was fair and asked me to put on Playhouse Disney on the bedroom tv. And she actually lasted thirty-five minutes before she came out to ask me a question.
On Monday morning I dropped her off at school and spent the day at home, working. I had no meetings scheduled, so I could do everything that I needed to as easily from my study as I could from my office. It felt good to get back to some of those other priorities, but for two days, the most important thing was to focus my attention on Josie. The rest of my world could wait.