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As parents settle into the new school year — a time for new schedules, new activities and new demands — the pressure to balance life and work is ever present. But to suggest there is some way to find a perfect ‘balance’ (i.e., to focus equal time and attention on work and home) is impossible in my mind. Or to put it more bluntly – the whole concept of work-life balance is bull.
I’m still a parent when I walk into work, and I still lead a company when I come home. So if my daughters’ school calls with a question in the middle of a meeting, I’m going to take the call. And if a viral petition breaks out in the middle of dinner, I’ll probably take that call, too.
And that’s okay — at least for me and my family. I have accepted that work and life are layers on top of each other, with rotating levels of emphasis, and I have benefited from celebrating that overlap rather than to try to force it apart.
I refer to this as the “Work/Life Mashup.” In tech-speak, a “mashup” is a webpage or app that is created by combining data and/or functionality from multiple sources. The term became popular in the early days of “Web 2.0,” when API’s (application programming interfaces) started allowing people to easily layer services on top of each other – like photographs of apartment rental listings on top of Google maps. There is a similar concept in music, where a mashup is a piece of music that combines two or more tracks into one.
One of the key concepts of a mashup is that the resulting product provides value in a way that neither originally did on its own; each layer adds value to the other.
Now, I’m not suggesting this is a guilt-free approach to life. People – and especially women – who try to do a lot often feel like they do none of it well, and I certainly suffer from that myself. But I have learned over time that how I feel about this is up to me. How much or how little guilt I experience at work or at home is in my control.
I also realize that the concept of a mashup is a lot easier (and perhaps only possible) for people with jobs where creating flexibility is possible. With these caveats in mind, here are some things to think about to create a work/life mashup early in your career: add value and don’t ask permission.