The other day someone asked me what I’m seeking in jobs I’m applying for. (Yes, I’m headed back to part-time teaching, and am excited about it!) I replied without hesitation: “I’m looking for work-life balance.”
Now, I want to be clear: “Work-life balance” does NOT mean that I don’t want to do important work that makes a positive difference in the lives of as many people as possible. It also does NOT mean that I won’t work hard — far from it.
Here’s what work-life balance does mean to me: that I can make a positive difference in the world, work hard, AND prioritize my relationships and health. Here’s a startling illustration of what I mean.
A Work-Life Balance Story
Last week I walked into the dentist’s office for the second time since I took a leave of absence from my 18-year teaching career. The hygienist poked and scraped around with his tools, then after several minutes, lifted his head and exclaimed, “Wow.”
“What?!” I asked, nervous.
The hygienist replied: “I have exactly zero notes to give you about improving your dental home care; your teeth look great. It seems that your brushing and flossing have improved remarkably. What happened???”
How a Job Impacted My Teeth
“Ah!” I exclaimed, with a relieved sigh. “I can tell you exactly what happened.
“For the almost two decades that I was a public school teacher, I’ve had to report to my classroom by 7:10am. Because I have two young children, this meant waking up at 5:30am to get everyone out the door in time. This meant that I didn’t have time for breakfast followed by brushing at home.
“Instead, I did a quick toothbrush before racing out the door, then ate my breakfast in the 7 minutes I had at my desk before students came in. My breakfast was big jars of overnight oats with raisins and instant coffee that I packed in bulk on Sundays… so since there wasn’t time to brush my teeth after that, the coffee and dried fruit just stayed on my teeth and nuzzled up in the cracks and caused all the cavities you’ve treated over the years.”
Dental Changes with Work Changes
I continued: “Now that I can bring the kids to their bus stop at 7:45am in the mornings, myself (instead of paying for before school care for the before school care), I have time to eat breakfast, then brush my teeth afterwards, then — get this — I also have time to floss my teeth!
“Yeah, that’s right… I’m flossing my teeth at night AND in the morning now! Can you believe that? I never thought I’d be one of those people.
“Oh, want to know another reason my teeth are less stained? So, because I’m not running on 6 hours of sleep a night, I’ve been able to quit coffee, and transition to just drinking green tea.
“Meanwhile, because my stress levels are lower, and I’ve had time to figure out meditation and other coping tools, I also have been able to stop drinking alcohol — namely the red wine that you told me a few years ago was messing up my dental enamel.
“So… the answer to why my teeth are so much healthier now is: work-life balance.”
The hygienist smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Then the dentist came in, took a good look around, and declared in agreement: “No cavities, and no warning spots!”
A Work-Life Balance Declaration
My newly strong and cared-for teeth, plus time to exercise more, get sleep, and be outside, are a daily reminder: it is no longer worth it to me to sacrifice health.
Having energy to hold in-depth conversations with my children, friends, and loved ones each day is another reminder: it is no longer worth it to sacrifice relationships.
I want to continue making a difference in the world, and I also require enough money to support myself and my children — and at the same time, I have to believe that both these goals can be achieved while keeping work-life balance firmly in sight.
Now I’m so curious to hear from you. What have been your experience with work-life balance? Do share!
Want more? Check out “Co-Parenting Tips After Divorce.”
Enjoy the photos in this article? They’re from my walks in the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond, Boston.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!