I look around at my colleagues and friends and see a bunch of people struggling with continuous tiredness and huge amounts of stress – almost everyone is shattered and hasn’t seen enough of their family and friends and almost all feel torn between the increased demands of work and the emotional demands of their non-work life. The mythical work life balance is virtually non-existent and having it all seems to be more of a curse than an aspiration
If you ask around the exceptions to the rule are those that actually enjoy their jobs, the rest of us are stuck in a cycle of working too hard and too long during the week and then struggling to recuperate during weekends which are far too short and interrupted far too frequently by work emails and calls
With all of the pressures on jobs work feels as if it is taking over our lives and squeezing out all of the fun things
Part of this may be that the people I know are all in the same boat – approaching middle age, having a family and with all the financial pressures that leads to plus the small voices in your head suggesting that if you are going to succeed you jolly well need to get a wriggle on with it and not let all those young enthusiastic things overtake you
Or perhaps the problem is that our generation were totally sold the myth of having it all – that all of us could find a way to have a good, successful career, have a happy and fulfilled life with a well adjusted family that saw plenty of us and where we spent our time together not focused on getting the chores done but on picture perfect moments together?
Is it not that the world has got materially tougher for our generation but that we are making the world tougher for ourselves by setting targets we are doomed to never achieve?
You could say that economically the world is a horribly grim place – jobs are scarce, pressure in the workplace has increased, incomes are stuck or falling whilst the cost of living continues to rocket upwards and everyone I know is cutting back and trying to keep ends somewhere near meeting – and yet I wonder if it is all that much worse than my parents faced in the 1970s during the winters of discontent and as interest rates spiralled out of control
I don’t know if life was simpler back then or it is just the benefit of hindsight but perhaps in a simpler world so many of us wouldn’t be striving towards goals that don’t actually make us happy
Yes career success can feel like something we need to achieve but actually is putting in extra hours and fighting the workplace political fight going to end up making us happier?
Are all those hours spent dealing with emails and calls when there are non work things clamouring for attention actually a good use of our time or should we be stricter about saying that there are times for work and times for play and that without the time for play we are less productive during our work time?
Do we need to accept that a lot of family life is not about perfect moments but about chores and the mundane reality of just getting things done without total chaos taking over?
Maybe it is time to start a small revolution, a small revolution but one that we all agree to work at – that we no longer want to live to work but instead want to work to live, that without having time to nurture ourselves and our family and friends we are lesser people and that we need the time and the space to do this
That success could be defined as having the confidence to turn off and tune out from work for at least a few hours every evening or for perhaps one day at the weekend
That having it all was not just about the career ladder but about having a family that saw you during the week and being able to make school events without being hassled by work or made to feel that somehow you were slacking
The only way it works is if we all stand together and give it a go – are you in?