Opinion

The myth of work-life balance

English: The noncombatant—

English: The noncombatant— (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My body screams for sleep.

But then there’s the part of my brain that dictates I write this before doing so.

What got me to thinking as I did the dishes and then put the freshly laundered clothes into the dryer is how absurd the quest for work-life balance is.

There really is no such thing.

The fact of the matter is that circumstances, more than anything, dictate exactly what it is we actually end up doing.

When I was young I worked three jobs. This was done in order to take care of my responsibilities.

I was not in search of work-life balance so much as that I needed to have extra income. And because I’ve never seriously considered robbing a bank, I took on two part-time jobs (in addition to my day job) in order to make ends meet. One of them was industrial janitorial work. I was not above it.

I didn’t eat right during this period. I subsisted on fast food—which wasn’t as advanced in terms of health benefits, as today’s version is.

My first hemorrhoid also arrived just in time during this era of my life.

I remember going to the doctor, bending over, incredulous and anxious at the same time as to what this malady could be.

“You’ve got the smallest hemorrhoid I’ve ever seen.”

“Really? A hemorrhoid?”

“I wouldn’t even rate it a hemorrhoid, more like a fraction of one.”

While the relief washed over me, it also made me determined to change my bad eating habits.

Yes, I was rushing from job to job in the non-digital age of the time, and relying solely on my self-perceived 20-something invincibility.

The problem that was my first ‘roid never came close to having me invoke the term “work-life balance.”

I was struggling to provide the very basics in life. Work-life balance had not been invented by Tony Robbins or whatever self-help guru invented it.

Work-life balance is marketing bullshit propaganda. There is no basis for it even today.

When psychologists try to explain the difference between millennials and boomers, what is one of the first things they make a point to differentiate between the generations?

You’ve got it.

Work-life balance is more important to millennials than boomers.

Seems like if anyone could have work-life balance it’d be pretty stressful. In fact, I freakin’ guarantee you there are people somewhere in HR, Training or some other sector of publicly-owned companies (that are not actually directly involved in anything related to the production of goods or services that contribute to the company’s bottom line), who are coming up with PowerPoints to show their bosses that work-life balance is key to attracting and retaining millennials.

Some boomers are accused of being workaholics, but the term workaholic is a relic of the dawn of the New Age cottage industry that is self-help.

Workaholics’ lives are not in balance with respect to work or leisure.

And psychologists will have you believe that this is why boomers keep working during the years their parents would have been retired.

We have things like 401ks to thank for this, largely in part.

Since a 401k’s value is predicated on Wall Street’s performance, we are at the mercy of our retirement stock portfolio selections.

Boomers are not looking to remain vital in their sunset years. Circumstance dictates boomers keep working. Make no mistake about it. Characterizing it any other way is just feeding the marketing machine that is Fidelity, Charles Schwab and Vanguard commercials during nightly news commercials.

No, we’re not looking for work-life balance. Maybe millennials are, but I don’t believe they are choosing work-life balance, either. Instead, they’ve remained at home longer than boomers did. They’ve chosen to not marry as early as boomers did. And they’ve also decided to postpone house purchases so as to not add to their already consuming student loan debt.

This is smart, but, if you think about it for just a minute, what millennials have chosen to do is not really based in intellect so much as observation.

They’ve witnessed the failed marriages of their parents.

They’ve seen how hard into the ground their parents have worked to keep a roof over their head.

And they’ve made some assumptions with these observations that conveniently embrace the whole work-life balance catchphrase lifestyle.

They take 90-minute wellness walks during the day while boomers opt to stay with the job until it grinds them down into a pulp.

Work-life balance?

Perhaps. But I’m pretty sure it’s no more than a gimmicky phrase waste product of Madison Avenue.

In fact, I have no doubt that the terminology “work-life balance” will go away (and be replaced) as soon as BMW sales decline for at least four consecutive quarters. May I suggest we adopt “leisure tangibles” as something to consider moving forward with respect to kicking back as much as possible (on the job or otherwise)?

Buying that shiny object—whether car, diamond ring or 10th Anniversary iPhone (when it comes out), is just prolonging the inevitable.

And that is, if you want to keep going, and no matter if you’re a millennial or a boomer, you’re going to end up doing whatever it is you have to do.

Work-life balance does not factor into decisions of this seismic magnitude. Ever.

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