Balance vs. Mediocrity

I’ve been thinking a lot on how I can possibly apply some of the ideas I’ve learned at the women’s forum I attended late last month. I chose two workshops to attend in that forum, one of them was on assertiveness, and the other one was on work-life balance. One of the things I learned in the workshop was that successful women who seemed to "have it all," in real life, actually have to make compromises in their lives. The "have-it-all" idea is just…an illusion.

I don’t know how I may seem to appear to other women, but I don’t think of myself as one of those successful women who seem to have it all. I’ve made compromises along the way myself. And if I were to make a chart of my life now, it would probably look like this:


That is roughly based on the number of hours I allot to my daily concerns on weekdays. Weekends are of course devoted mostly to family/home affairs, because I opt not to work on weekends.

If I were to make my "ideal" chart, it would probably look like this:


Haha, good luck with that one. I did say "ideal"; I didn’t say it was practical (right now). Still, it’s nice to think of ways on how to achieve that kind of balance. And hey, who knows? Priorities do change as you get older.

A huge chunk of my time is concentrated on work. I feel kind of guilty because my work gets the best of me, and the rest goes to my family and other stuff. I do manage to snip off a few hours per month for my so-called "Me-Time." I usually devote it to blogging, photography, and what-have-you. And I just wish I had more time to devote to things I really enjoy doing – things that do not have the word "work" tagged on them.

And yet, in spite of the fact that I devote so many hours to my work, I still feel that my efforts are not enough. How much more severe would the consequences be if I were to redistribute my hours so as to achieve a more "balanced" life? As it is, there will always be colleagues who would perform better in terms of scientific output and impact. There will always be those who can be at the laboratory virtually 24/7, and whose brain cells never stop working on their scientific problems even when they get home. There will always be colleagues who would have the luxury of time, those who don’t have to take occasional breaks from work in order to take care of their sick children. While effort doesn’t always translate to productivity, it can lead to a significant difference over time.

It makes me wonder about this. Choosing to have a family life is a purely individual choice, but does it necessarily mean that those who do will inevitably have their career trajectories severely affected? Are they doomed to mediocre careers because they just can’t devote themselves wholly to their disciplines anymore? Like it or not, when you become a parent, your priorities shift drastically. It’s just the way it is.

On the other hand, does having a career condemn you to become a less effective and caring parent to your child? Are you doomed to have your child say to you one day, "You just weren’t there for me"?  Ouch.

Life becomes akin to walking on a tightrope, where a slight perturbation can cause you to dangerously keel over to the other side. Now that’s something you don’t learn in school.

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One Response to Balance vs. Mediocrity

  1. bw says:

    I was on the first chart a couple of years ago but transitioned to the 2nd chart lately. I plan to reduce work to less than 50 percent if possible while retaining the same pay hehe :) I hope it can be done 😉

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