Why “Balance Work and Family” is Terrible Advice (& What to Do Instead)

Have you heard the advice about “balancing work and family” if you want to keep your life from falling apart?

What if it’s WRONG?

What if “balance” between these two things is not only impossible to maintain, but is actually harmful to pursue if you want both your company and your family to thrive?

If you’re committed to growing your business AND you want a healthy home life, here’s a better solution you can actually do without frustrating them both.

But first, a story.

My wife went to a summer camp once where they played a game on a giant see-saw (also called a teeter-totter.)

The goal was to get as many people as possible on both sides of the ride and try to balance it long enough to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” without anyone falling off and without letting either side touch the ground.

As you can imagine, that’s really, really hard to do with a bunch of kids and teenagers.

In a “group balancing” game like that, inevitably someone slips or gets pushed off, the balance is upset, some people think it’s hilarious, others get annoyed, and the whole thing keeps having to be restarted.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve actually tried to balance work and family life, you know it’s the same type of experience. If you had just one or two people on the see-saw, that would be one thing. 

But you don’t.

On one side you have your company and all its stakeholders: workers, managers, board members, investors, and don’t forget the customers! Each one of them has their own needs, demands and requirements, and as a growth-conscious leader you have to keep them all in mind.

On the other side you have your family: a significant other, children, other family members and close friends, and you have to prioritize them, too.

It’s enough to make your head explode.

But what if trying to balance both sides of the see-saw was never the goal? What if the goal was actually much simpler and more fun?

See, a teeter-totter isn’t meant to balance. It’s meant to ride.

If you’re committed to growing your business AND you want a healthy home life, here’s my encouragement to you: Don’t try to balance both sides, just make sure the “ups” match the “downs”.

Here’s what that looks like in my life, and how it can work for you.

On some days or even weeks, my company needs me WAY more than usual, and that’s okay. My family knows that in those times, the company gets more attention (it goes “down”) and they need to take second-place for a while (they go “up”). 

But they also know I’m keeping track of how much of me the company is getting, and that I will ALWAYS make sure to give them the same amount when it’s their turn.

The truth is, nobody likes to be left “up in the air” forever, but most people are understanding enough to realize that life is about give and take.

So, stop trying to keep everything balanced and accept that it’s okay for each part to be both “up” and “down” sometimes. It will help you feel a little less anxious.

Let yourself be fully present with your family or company when it’s their turn without feeling guilty for short-changing the other. It will help you be more productive.

And as you get into the rhythm of “ups” and “downs” that works best for your situation, you’ll gain one more benefit, too.

You’ll start to enjoy the ride.



Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


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