Work/Life Balance featured image: highway image by Christian showing cars coming and going in streaks of light

Work Life Balance: What’s That?

I, like many professionals, have at certain times been swept up in the concept of work-life balance.  Unfortunately, this is such an anomalous state of being, that I’ve struggled to determine whether such a thing exists.

Early on, I believed that this meant there should be an even “balance” – therefore you work as much as you live your life.  I found that while I was not technically “at work” there was still a lot of work to be done: cleaning, organizing, grocery shopping, etc.  This tipped the balance decidedly in the favor of work.

I readjusted my perceptions to consider whether I needed to spend a certain amount of time on “life” and put work aside.  While this worked in theory, there were times when doing this led to a buildup in work that I had ignored to “live my life.” Over time I started to realize that maybe there wasn’t as clear of a distinction between life and work as I was led to believe.

Focusing on Life

This last October, my wife and I recently welcomed our third child, and first daughter (attached is a picture… you’re welcome).  It has been quite busy at home, and I have been basking in the glow of a new baby.  I am thankfully able to take advantage of a five-week parental leave which means I will be out of the library through the holidays and into the new year.

photo of Matt Timko's baby daughter
Picture of Annette Timko, who sources close to the subject say “is a problematic nightime sleeper”

By the standard definition, I will be “off work” and focusing solely on “life” to spend time with my family.  I have two other sons (five and three) and taking care of all of these kids, on top of the household is an entire other type of work in itself, giving little time for “myself”: seriously, all I want is a nap!

You may have noticed that I’ve been using quotation marks copiously, because I hope my point has been made that there is no clear distinction between life and work: life is work, anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

What I’ve come to understand is that when there is talk about achieving a work-life balance, this almost always start from the assumption that work is a life drain, and you must replenish by focusing on your life over work.  I certainly have had times when work has left me drained and I just need to go home to spend time with my family.

Valuing Our Work

But by and large, I love my work, and I am thankful every day that I have been given the opportunity to work in law librarianship.  The work is hard, and sometimes it is emotionally draining.  But ever since I began my career I’ve found it very easy to focus on my family, in addition to focusing on my work, without drawing a hard line between the two.

This speaks volumes about my two Chicagoland employers, both CALL libraries, but I think it is generally true of the profession, and something that is a huge selling point for law students and library students looking to have a rewarding career and a meaningful family life.

As I embark on my “vacation” to my other job, I am cognizant of the fact that while I am very excited to enjoy the holidays with my family, I will miss that other part of my life during the coming weeks, which makes me very lucky to have found a career that I enjoy so much.  Because no matter how you define it, the only way to achieve work life balance is to ensure that you are performing both roles.