I am fully aware of the irony
of writing an article about work-life balance
when I have three children
under the age of 4.
Sometimes I will wake up
and wonder how it is 2017
when just yesterday
it was 2013.
I guess it’s true—
time flies when you’re having fun.
I recently bought a hammock from REI. I brought it home, set it up between two
trees and read some of our favorite books to Warren ( 3) and Marlow ( 2); Delano ( 1
month) was with mom. The experience was idyllic. It was everything I ever wanted
fatherhood to be: Reading Little Blue Truck and Harold and the Purple Crayon, sandwiched between two adoring kids while swaying in a gentle, cool breeze in the warm
evening sunlight, not a cloud in the sky.
It’s not always fun, of course. Sometimes it’s a whirlwind of whining, screaming,
banging, hitting, and biting. Asking big brother for perhaps the 10,000th time to not
sit on his sister’s head.
But all in all, I love being a dad. My first son was born at home and I caught him in
my arms. I was instantly in love. Pretty soon thereafter I felt a new feeling—I had an
overwhelming urge to put every ounce of my energy into raising my children. I miss
them while I’m working. Anything that threatens to reduce my time with them is an
enemy. This naturally brought up the topic of balance.
At some point years ago, the concept of balance—or more typically, “work-life balance”—entered the lexicon of working people. It was spoken of as an ideal to be sought
after. This appealed to me at first glance. After all, at my first job after university, pulling
in an admirable salary, working 60+ hours a week before spending time studying for
exams, all while expecting exam success, was held up as the ideal actuarial employment.
Just before I left that job after two years, I mentioned that I would be taking a month
off before starting my new position and that two weeks of that time would be spent in
Mexico City visiting an old high school friend who had been living there for a couple
years. This revelation was met with quizzical looks, and after an awkward silence, I got
comments like, “Well, enjoy that chance while you have it—you won’t get another one
until retirement.” That comment didn’t seem to embody balance to me.
But what exactly is meant by “work-life balance”? I can easily imagine that the
people I left at my first job would say that balance simply means that one puts equal
energy into career, social life, and maybe a hobby, but continuously falls short at all of
them. Is that the natural consequence of not focusing all of one’s energy in just one of
those areas? I can see their point. I can say with confidence that I did not have balance
while studying for actuarial exams—or at least balance was defined differently. I did
not have balance on a given day, but I balanced a given year by drawing a line after the
exam day, leaving the books behind and focusing on leisure when I had the chance.
ISTOCK/ DMITRII GUZHANIN
An actuary looks back ...
and forward BY JASON SEARS