There are few words as likely to elicit a snort of laughter in our house than 'work-life balance’. I have great intentions, to be sure; there is almost no week that goes by that I don’t promise myself this will be the week I will take long walks in the middle of the day, that I will cook slow meals, take more exercise, that I will just sit with the children without muttering the words: “I just need to put this wash on. ” I’m not sure my husband even tries.
We get up at 6am and start work as soon as we wake; it’s not that we are natural earlybirds (you only have to see my face as he shoves the first cup of coffee into my hand to know that), but with three children, a farm full of animals, and a schedule so complicated that it sometimes requires diagrams to even understand it, you can be sure that if you do not work in the clear moments, the rest of the day will get eaten up by vets’ appointments or school meetings or household disasters or just the tide of domestic ephemera that seems to encroach every day.
We work when we can because we have both been freelance (my husband now works for a newspaper) and once you have lived from erratic paycheck to paycheck you never feel quite confident that the work will continue. I have spent enough years as an only moderately successful author not to take the last two years’ success for granted, so much of it has been spent on the road (four trips to the US alone), trying to consolidate this extraordinary burst of popularity. My husband and I have nicknamed it 'the year of stamina’. My children simply raise their eyes and ask me, sarcastically, who I am again?
But here’s the secret we don’t dare tell them. We do it because we’re trying to give them security, yes. But we also do it because we love it. Oh sure those of us who complain about work-life balance moan about how tired we are, and how we want to create more time for ourselves. But I suspect many of us wouldn’t know what to do with it. Because it is a privilege to do a job that you love, to spend your working life lost in the thing you’ve always wanted to do. It is a privilege to be able to make a living from it.
And so while yes, I am doing my best to spend more time hanging out with my children and working on my upper arms, there is still nothing I like more than heading up the stairs to my office knowing that I am about to do an uninterrupted 12 hour writing shift.
Balanced, probably not. But if you are lucky enough to do the thing you love then perhaps there is no need for balance. It’s as bizarre as saying that you should love your partner or children 'in moderation’.
Don’t forget that we’re giving away all three of Jojo’s novels this month. See this post for entry details.