We love to share the below Kristina Kuzmic video Screw Balance with our cohorts of women during The Leadership Connection program to put a fun spin on something that is actually a very serious challenge for women still today.
I liken the search for the perfect work-life balance to trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There is no such thing. However it continues to be an issue for some women with often unrealistic expectations of the load they can or should be carrying to achieve said “balance”. Expectations that are often their own but also traditionally fostered by an inequitable culture forever placing women in a number of roles they feel are theirs and theirs alone.
In addition, our propensity as women, for perfection and the desire or need to prove our capacity and capability to do things well, to do more, to do it all, is not allowing us the option to make more sustainable choices.
The undisputable truth is that women face a real challenge with the load they tend to carry as they work hard to fulfil their career ambitions. This leads to issues of wellbeing, burnout and as CNBC Make It published last week, “a huge concern” for organisations, with some of the worlds’ most senior female leaders leaving.
“Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rate we’ve ever seen
— and at a higher rate than men in leadership.”Women in the Workplace 2022,
LeanIn.org and Mckinsey
Think about all of the different roles you play in your life – at work, at home, with family, and with friends. I equate this load (or responsibility) to the ‘water that we carry’.
Imagine you are carrying that bucket of water on your head and walking it a very long way from your water source back to your village as many women in different parts of the world are required to do. The bucket can only hold so much water. Each role and the people and work we feel responsible for, adds more water to the bucket.
If balance implies taking on responsibility for all in equal terms all of the time it’s no wonder the water spills.
It’s important that we regularly review what and who is in our bucket. When water spills, it never spills where we want it to. It is generally you and your health and wellbeing that gets neglected. Make sure when you are reviewing your bucket that you put yourself and your health and wellbeing priorities in there. This might be ensuring your exercise goes into your diary and isn’t the first thing that goes when meetings pile up. Taking time out to meet with friends and connect socially. Having some space and time to meditate or get to a regular yoga or pilates class. Ensuring your diet and your sleep is as good as it can be. Whatever this looks like for you, make sure this is also in your bucket.
Assess what load you are carrying for others. Specifically, look at all of the people in your bucket. Where is there an inappropriately high load? Where do you need to be picking up more load? What do you need to let go of?
When we do this exercise, women very often have light bulb moments that relate to load they're not even aware of. It’s a great exercise to do with your family as well.
Ultimately, this is important to create awareness of where we spend our time and energy. What expectations we have or think others have of us and what the sustainable reality we need to build might look like. To ensure that we manage our time and prioritise for the benefit not only of our health and wellbeing but also to create space and time for career advancement, personal and professional development. I always think of what we are told before we fly – fit your own oxygen mask before you help others. We are no help to anyone if we aren’t looking after ourselves.
And back to balance!
Let’s get rid of that word once and for all. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the years about this. There is no one size fits all. What is balance for one is not for another. So, screw balance and do what is right for you!