Western Sydney University, Kingswood Campus Library

Work-life balance is a difficult thing, least of all because work is a part of life just like humans are a part of nature. You cannot consider one without the other, and if you do then you are likely to cause harm. Modern humans have, in large part, considered themselves above nature, able to manipulate it and use it at will for many years, without concern.

Most of us now realise that the balance has tipped too far, human action is impacting on the rest of nature with a serious feedback loop for human health. Similarly, as individuals we need to work* to contribute meaningfully to the community and have a fulfilling life.  

For me finding a work-life balance has always been more about adding things to the scale rather than taking things off. If work is taking up a larger portion of my time, I add in a community or personal activity, like joining the school’s Friends group or coaching netball, rather than cutting back on work. If work starts to feel comfortable then I increase the challenges on that front. I am very firmly a Gen-Xer but I have always struggled remaining in a role for more than two years. By the two-year mark I am looking to add something new to the mix. My latest addition is part-time study for a PhD, again.   

I acknowledge that I am in a privileged position, with a job in an organisation that permitted me to go part-time and a supportive husband, but it is still an adjustment. It is 20 years since I last attempted a PhD and quite a bit has changed in that time. For starters there appears to be a lot more support and information out there, sometimes overwhelming so, such that in the early stages of the PhD I feel like I am working on a PhD in online training.   

Noting my inability to stick to anything for more than two years, the fact that a full-time PhD is at least three years (I withdrew last time after two years) and doing this part-time will take at least six years the prospect is a little daunting. Not least because in six years my daughter will also be doing her Higher School Certificate (HSC) (or equivalent). My husband has joked that he might move out at that time. He has completed a PhD so he knows how hard it is at the end and we have both been through the HSC, so we know that the combined pressure could lead to a very tense household.   

So how am I managing my work-life balance? I work three days a week, study 2.5 days a week. I dropped the Friends group and the netball coaching. I am maintaining my personal training, but without a coach, I schedule my own swimming, running and stretching sessions, and play netball. I am a full-time mum and wife, with one daughter and two dogs (one a puppy that needs training). Household chores and school drop-offs are shared with my husband. I take whatever opportunities I can to enjoy time in nature, read, cook, listen to music and catch up with family and friends.  

Hopefully I can get the balance right so that I can fit it all in. I just need to establish a routine and stay focused. No problem, right? I know it is going to be a bumpy ride, but I am determined, passionate about my topic, and I have a good support structure, so I am going to get there in the end.   

How do you manage your ‘balance’? 

*by work I don’t just mean paid work, but the act of putting in an effort to do anything that contributes to society, that includes volunteer work, housework and looking for work.  

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