People talk about work-life balance, like it is a tangible thing, something that it is possible to achieve. Like you can have those two aspects of your life perfectly and harmoniously aligned so everything flows and everyone is happy. I’m not sure I know anybody who feels that way.
I have spoken before about how much I love my job, which I absolutely do. There are moments at work where it just feels perfect, where I am doing exactly what I have always meant to be doing, where I have all these plates spinning in rhythm and I can do anything. There are definite moments where I feel like the very best version of myself, the most competent, decisive, empowered, compassionate, human version of me. I never really feel like that at home where it always feels like I’m just muddling through and making the best of it. I can definitely see how some doctors develop a God complex, that’s not my style in the slightest, far too many years of low self esteem ground into me, but there are still moments of greatness which are just unbeatable. It can be like poetry running an overflowing Emergency Department, keeping everything moving in just the right rhythm to keep everybody safe and keep things moving.
But balance? Well I definitely haven’t achieved that.
On maternity leave I was desperate to be at work, desperate for that intellectual stimulation, to have that vaguely competent side of my personality back again. I loved being home with my babies and I took every single day I was entitled to with no regrets at all, but I still missed work.
Now that I’m back at work, due to the vagaries of our rota, there are times when I hardly see my children. I can go 48 hours without seeing them and that has big impacts on them, on my husband who is solely responsible for them over that time, and on all our relationships for the following days. There are times I feel physically ill due to the sheer amount I have worked, particularly the endless time shifts of night and day.
There are times when I really resent my decision to work in a non-training post, that despite years of experience I am still seen as second rate. When I see doctors who I supervised as they arrived to the wards fresh out of medical school, and they are now the consultants condescending to me and my inferior role.
This month I have had some annual leave and some time owing to me and actually have worked very little. You would think that would make everything feel better, but actually I am finding it really hard. I feel totally disengaged from work and have found it really hard to keep up with responsibilities I have away from the shop floor. I have so much going on at home with our decluttering and our grand plans for making this home feel like the one I really want. When I am at work I am dreaming of what I want to do next in the house or garden, what the children are up to. For the very few shifts I am doing this month I find it almost an insult that I have to drag myself away from my ‘real life’ to waste time in this thing called work.
So what’s the answer? I’m sure there isn’t one. I am glad I have a job I love a lot of the time, and that feeds parts of my personality that don’t get to breath in my normal life. Thankful to have a home life I find engaging and fulfilling a lot of the time. Incredibly privileged to have two wonderful children that I grew, and that I get to be instrumental in raising. So I guess I just accept that balance is an unattainable goal, and there will always be a part of life which feels like it is being neglected slightly, grit my teeth, and just keep going.