Beyond Work-Life Balance: Work-Life Justice and Work-Life Fulfillment

We have heard about the importance of work-life balance for decades. Everyone knows that they should try to achieve it. Most people don’t really know how. In fact, instead of a helpful, healthy thing to strive for, work-life balance has become an impossible goal we beat ourselves up for not reaching.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Maybe we don’t need to keep trying to find new ways to achieve work-life balance. Instead, perhaps we need to think about new methods of framing the issue. If we approach it with a fresh perspective, then maybe we can finally reach the goal that’s been so elusive to us. That’s why recently I’ve been researching alternative perspectives to work-life balance.

Work-Life Fulfillment Instead of Work-Life Balance

An article over at Forbes succinctly describes the main problems with the term work-life balance:

  • It implies that work and life are always separate things.
  • It suggests that that we should always give equal time to each.

In contrast, the author suggests aiming for work-life fulfillment. This means setting both personal and professional goals that make you feel passionate and invigorated. Then it means figuring out the best ways to allocate your time each day in order to achieve those goals. The balance isn’t in the numbers devoted to each thing. It’s in the overall sense of fulfillment in each area of life.

Work-life fulfillment means:

  • You give your time to where you most want/need to without counting specific hours for “balance.”
  • Each part of your life is infused with meaning and purpose.
  • Sometimes work and the rest of life go hand-in-hand in work-life integration. They don’t have to be separate things.
  • Parents utilize co-parenting, share work and home tasks, and get outside support as needed.
  • One area of life may take priority for a time then in a different season you’ll shift focus.
  • You find value in actively taking time for yourself to prevent burnout in any area of life.

A Movement for Work-Life Justice

One of the biggest problems with the work-life balance movement is that it places a lot of pressure on individuals. (This article in The Atlantic explains that really well.) If our culture pressures us to put in 60 hour work weeks while also being perfect parents, how are we ever supposed to find the balance? Work-life justice calls for government and corporate solutions that assist people, especially working mothers, in ways that make a balanced life more realistic.

Also called work-family justice, this movement explores complex intersectionality issues that include the wage-gender gap, single working mothers, issues of class and race, and other factors. When we look at other nations, such as Sweden, we see that some governments are set up in such a way that more individuals have the ability to access fair wages, professional careers, and support for their families. People in the US, particularly lower-class and middle-class women, don’t have nearly as much support. If we don’t have work-life justice, it’s pretty hard to attain work-life balance.

Forbes suggests that it’s not only the government’s responsibility but that employers should also step up. They show that replacing a culture of work-family conflict with one that supports work-family balance and benefits improves not only the worker’s life but their job as an employee. It’s good for everyone.

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