Walking the Wire: Work/Life Balance and the Single Woman

wroklifebalancescale.JPGby Heather Chapman (New York City)

The hot topic these days is the quest for work/life balance. It’s something that everyone – man or woman – struggles with, more so now that technology has gotten us to the point where we are eternally connected to our work obligations.

When people talk about work/life balance, they generally talk about how to decide when to take the conference call versus when to attend the school play or have a romantic dinner with the spouse. In other words, more often than not, the discussion is framed in terms of family versus work.

But what if you don’t have a family or committed partner? Does that make the competing demands of work and life any less difficult to navigate? Just because single women don’t have a soccer game to get to or an anniversary to celebrate, does that make their out-of-office commitments any less important? Clearly, the answer to both these questions is no.

So, how can the modern single woman ensure a work/life balance when hers isn’t as ‘traditionally’ important? The Glass Hammer asked several single, professional women how they walk that wire and keep their balance. Across the board, the woman who responded said it came down to personal commitment – that no matter how little time they were left with outside of the office, they had to have something else, outside of work, to be passionate about. Many of the women who responded said that a key thing for them was to make friends or get involved in an activity that had nothing to do with their job. By doing so, they end up with a clear line separating the two, making it easier to stick with outside commitments.

CJ, a compliance officer for a private investment group in Seattle, said that for her, the most important thing she’s found in managing a work/life balance is to “stay true to what’s most important [to her], and to prioritize.” She’s found that by sticking to her guns about what she wants to accomplish, it’s easier for her to keep that balance. “Of course,” she adds, “a boss who is willing to listen and understands that there is something else in my life that is just as important to me as my job – well, that helps a lot too.”

Renee is a rugby enthusiast who, in her non-rugby time, is an AVP for a change-management team working with derivatives. The way that Renee has found to balance her work/life is to make everyone at her job completely aware of her devotion to rugby. “Everyone on my work team knows that Tuesdays and Thursdays I have team practice… I’ve also started inviting my co-workers to my games and fundraising events to get them involved too. I feel like they understand my commitment when they actually see how much time and energy I dedicate to rugby.”

Kristen, a corporate-relations manager, agrees that she is pressured somewhat to cover for others as she doesn’t have parental responsibilities. The easiest way that she’s found to manage her work/life balance is to “juggle the things I want to do with the work that I have to do by blending it. I will organize the corporate contacts to go with me on a wine tasting [event] or to the new documentary screening. Most of the time they love being asked and I give them a reason to go out while I get to also live my life.” She’s also able to look at the additional pressure as something of a gift. “I can take on more and I don’t mind. I look at it as more opportunities to do the work I love.”

Jessica, a media-relations specialist, says that the only pressure she feels in managing a work/life balance is self-inflicted. “The only time I feel any pressure is when I’ve gotten myself too involved. I’ll go stretches of a few weeks where I’ve made a commitment of some sort every night. It’s draining, but when I look back, I would rather be busy and involved in my outside life than sitting on my couch every night.”

If the above women are any example, work/life balance, while an ever-evolving process, is ultimately about having a firm commitment, a flexible mindset, and a passion for something outside of work. But, the Glass Hammer wants to know how you, our readers, manage your work/life balance, whether you are single, in a committed relationship, married, or married with kids. Do you have any special passions outside of work? Do you involve your co-workers in the outside activities or do you draw a bright white line between your work and personal life? Join us on The Glass Hammer community board and let us know what you think!