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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Finding Balance?

  Claire Sheff-Kohn

Claire Sheff-Kohn
Senior Associate and Mentor

Having been born in October, I am considered a Libra, which is the seventh sign of the Zodiac and represented by scales. If you believe in the characteristics associated with astrological signs, I should be the embodiment of balance. However, I am not one of those fortunate individuals who can find balance in each and every day; I find it where I can. In graduate school, I had friends who could carve out time daily to work on their dissertations, while I used weekends, holidays, and vacation days to finish mine. I am reasonably well-disciplined, just not in an everyday kind of way.

Since it is more or less an accepted notion that balance in life is a healthy state, and that imbalance causes stress, I have often lamented my inability to find balance in equal proportions—and created additional stress for myself by worrying about it. When I have been asked by women’s groups to speak about balancing work and home life, I have not been able to provide a simple formula for finding this state of equilibrium. Upon such speaking occasions, I have felt obligated to admit guiltily that I hadn’t managed to find balance. I offered, instead, my thinking that maybe this was neither a good nor a bad thing; it just was.

Then I would go on to describe how I had to find satisfaction in the reality that I had a place for everything—just not in equal amounts, or at equal intervals. For example, my work life often ebbed and flowed with greater and lesser intensity given the time of year, the project at hand, or the particular issue on the front burner. The same has held true for family life, as joys and crises have arisen and subsided. The real challenges for me have been those times when work life and family life are both in high gear.

I mistakenly thought that when I retired, I would finally experience a balanced life. Alas, it still eludes me, but I am reconsidering that maybe I have been defining balance too narrowly. While I still experience the push and pull of work, now part-time, and of volunteer commitments, “mom care,” family, and everything else life brings, I think that what I told all those women who heard me speak actually was the truth—or at least my truth.

In the end, we all make choices about what balls to keep up in the air in the juggling act of life. Those choices bring consequences. For example, spending more time at work might result in less time at home or for social engagements. More time at home might result in less advancement up the career ladder. I believe that, ultimately, acceptance of the fact that nobody can really have it all—whatever “all” is—and acceptance of the choices we make and their consequences is where true balance lies.

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