Balance that Works: The Fallacy of Work-Life Balance

Two years ago, I wrote an article for SubSelfie.com entitled False Balance in Journalism. It points out how journalists commit false balance by giving equal space or equal exposure to at least two conflicting sides of a story, even when one side is an utter lie (has no basis in science, history, or human experience), or irrelevant.

I used the idea as take off point during a talk for the Women’s Day event of an international corporate bank. I was requested to talk about balance, in relation to this year’s theme “Balance for Better.”

Similar to false balance in the context of journalism, we sometimes subscribe to a parallel false idea of balance by looking at our lives as a sum of various activities that can be compartmentalized, and that each of these activities must be given equal time, effort, and resources just so we can tell ourselves that we’re living a balanced life on the basis of looking at the lives of other people. But because we have different priorities, and we have to manage our limited resources, we oftentimes end up frustrated not being able to live up to a “standard idea” of a balanced life.

Another fallacy is work-life balance. I agree with motivational speaker Willem Gous that work-life balance suggests a dichotomy: good vs bad. Between the two, work and life, we usually associate work with everything that is bad. This is probably the why we joke about how we hate Mondays.

Gous further argues that work-life balance somewhat downgrades the large encompassing aspect of our being, which is life, by putting it at par with a smaller aspect of reality, which is work.

So instead of work-life balance, Gous has proposed an alternative: work-life integration. If you come to think of it, you can’t really separate work from your life. Unless you’re not part of the labor force, you can effortlessly do so. So instead of trying with all your might to conjure an illusion of life where work is detachable, Gous suggests accepting work as part of life. You can imagine your life as if it were an edifice, and work as among its building blocks.

I was asked during my talk what balance means to me. For me, balance is simply a life that works. And it works towards the attainment of one’s dreams and goals.

I believed in work-life balance when I was younger, trying to delegate days where I believed I shouldn’t even think about work. But it’s impossible when you’re a television news reporter. When you go home, you’d catch your family watching the news. When you go out with your friends they would ask about the real score behind controversial news stories. You’re connected to the Internet 24/7 via company-issued gadgets. So you really have no excuse not to respond unless you’re in a dead spot.

Nakatutok 24 Oras
Nakatutok 24 Oras

I was also asked: “how have you personally benefited from a balance opportunity?”

My answer: instead of endless futile attempts to build a non-existent reality where work does not intersect with all other aspects of my life, I have learned to acknowledge that work is part of life, and took advantage of prospects in my previous job to enrich my life as a whole. I wouldn’t call this work-life integration since I was ignorant of the idea when I figured out what I had to do. I simply called it a life that works.

For example, after exhausting coverages, I would take a few minutes with my team or with my peers to snap jump shots.

A cooperative Mount Mayon photobombs our jumpshot
A cooperative Mount Mayon photobombs our jumpshot

I’ve also made friends at work across different stations.

Networking with other networks
Networking with other networks

I had enjoyed dressing up for thematic stories like Christmas and Halloween.

Forgot to shave
Forgot to shave
Woke up like this
Woke up like this

If it weren’t for my job I also would not have experienced what it’s like to be a gasoline girl for a few minutes.

Full tank na niyo
Full tank na niyo

I probably would not learn how to ride a bike (yes, I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle until I was in my early 20’s) and drive a Vespa motorcycle if those weren’t required for some stories assigned to me. I tried to have fun whenever I could.

Before Angkas, Grabfood and Foodpanda
Before Angkas, Grabfood and Foodpanda

I discovered my skill at painting after doing a story in Batanes.

My first painting, all the way from Batanes
My first painting, all the way from Batanes

My motivation to learn scuba diving was from wanting to do underwater stories.

Deeper stories
Deeper stories

Because I enjoyed my job, I became good at it. As my career grew, I grew as a person.

But along with growth, I outgrew certain things.

My life as news reporter wasn’t all “rainbows and unicorns.” Confusing times encouraged me to take up graduate studies in Psychology.  Whenever I interviewed crime suspects or disaster victims for television news, I had always doubted myself whether my way of asking questions and getting answers for public viewing was helping or doing harm. I wanted to find answers in the least invasive or offensive way I could, and if possible, help people feel better. I thought that I might learn that from Psychology.

Over the years of delay in schooling, the intention evolved from using Psychology to do my job better, into getting the degree to be able to directly help. I had also yearned having weekends and holidays to spend with my family.

This change caused the balance to tip so I had to rearrange my life to make it work for the new dream. I left news reporting to join a non-profit international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders, in my capacity as a communications professional. At the same time, I took it as an opportunity to be exposed to mental health issues in humanitarian crisis – a way towards a long-term goal. It likewise affords me time off to continue my studies and spend time with my loved ones.

I was asked what advice I would give to those seeking balance. I say, don’t seek it. Balance is not a goal but a way towards goals. Instead of chasing balance, seek meaning and purpose. Maybe, it would help you discern what endeavours are important to you so you can focus on them.

[Entry 274, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Subselfie - Tricia

Tricia Zafra is a humanitarian worker. After 11 years of working as a broadcast journalist, she joined Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) as Communications Officer. She is taking up her Master’s Degree in Psychology in the University of the Phlippines, Diliman. She is a vegetarian, a painter, and a certified open water scuba diver; 2018 OFW Gawad Parangal Outstanding Field Reporter; 2016 OFW Gawad Parangal Favorite Female TV Newscaster; 2016 Certificate of Creative Excellence recipient of the US International Film and Video Festival Awards; 2014 Best Culture-Based TV Reporter of NCCA’s 1st Gawad Sagisag Kultura ng Filipino Awards, and; 2012 Plaque of Recognition recipient of the 4th National Statistics Month Media Awards. BA Broadcast Communication (cum laude) 2007, UP Diliman. Read more of her articles here.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.