Work-Life Balance

originalOf course, you’ve got to maintain a work life balance.

Of course you have.

Of course.

And, while we’re at it, we should discuss getting a life.  We discussed just that down at my local “Get a life” club recently.  (Joke courtesy of Barry Crier).

But I’d like to put forward a different perspective.   

There are a number of clichés about over-work, many of them with real truth.  I don’t much enjoy social functions where the only topic of conversation is medicine, and folk who tend to work all the time tend to be a bit tiring, and a bit dull, to be around.

But here’s the thing.  We happen to do a job which is, for the most part, interesting, challenging, rewarding, and very well paid in comparison to the vast majority of people in society.  It is often even fun.  So, why should enjoying this, and being happy about being at work be somehow on the different side of a balance to “life”?

If I attempt to define myself by the things I do and the fact that they’re important to me – and, perhaps, other people – then I’d include being a husband, a father, a paediatrician, and editor.  If I were not a paediatrician or an editor I would be a different sort of husband and father – but not necessarily a better, kinder or happier one.

My life is the totality of what I do.  Part of my life is that Sunday morning ward round – which I don’t really like – and that cheeky 3 year old in clinic – which I really do.  Part of my life is time with my family and time away from them.  Part of my life is sitting puzzling over how I’m going to express myself in this post, and part of it is reading other people express themselves better.

The phrase Work/Life balance suffers from one of two flaws.

It either implies that the definition of life is so narrow that it includes nothing outside a narrowly prescribed selection of leisure activities. Or it implies that while working we are not living.

So, how about we drop the lazy dichotomy.  We could call it work/not work balance.  Or I’m sure you could come up with some other alternatives.  Our profession has had a pounding in the last few weeks, months and years, so let’s stop joining in with that negativity, and acknowledge how much our work enriches us.

Addendum:  Just after I’d drafted this, I saw this from Alain de Botton at The School of Life, which offers a good different perspective.

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