The ever-returning dilemma on work-life balance

Feb 03 2017 Published by under Decisions, work-life balance

Yesterday I was chatting with a colleague who has 2 small children. We started around the same time and have both been evaluated pretty positively since we joined the company. At the end of the year I got the opportunity to do a new work thing and I accepted this even though I'm now realizing that I am really working at the limits of how much work I can do. She got the same offer and declined. With a heavy heart because it was something that she wanted but with kids that are smaller than mine (and sleeping very unpredictably) she was afraid she would disappoint people because of not being able to deliver what people expected. And because she was afraid she would be exhausted literally all the time.

I've made similar choices when my kids were babies (and am actually still making this choice by officially working 4 days a week instead of 5). But I also realize that declining such an offer before even trying means that perhaps you're missing out on something that could have worked out. But I can also definitely see that the prospect of being exhausted/underperforming makes you opt out. And I'm guessing there's probably a gender difference here. And a bit of perfectionism?

Have you declined opportunities because you were afraid they would be too taxing?

6 responses so far

  • Yes, though mine is now complicated by chronic illness AND a small child. I could almost get away with making the overly taxing (stupid) choice by forcing myself to gear up and go but I always paid a heavy price for it afterward. After nearly 20 years of this, I've finally learned my lesson about that price and making wiser decisions, mostly, about whether it's worth it.

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yeah that sounds understandable. My colleague sounded a bit hesitant that she would miss out because of just being afraid of not being able to keep up without having tried, but it sounds like you have tried multiple times and now know where your limits are?

      • Yes, that's accurate. I've been hiding my illness all my career-building years, so I have some experience in the fact that I DO have limits. I'm still not good at estimating them entirely accurately but that's because I tend to err on the side of trying a little harder.

        If this is the beginning of her journey in figuring out her limits, that's understandable she's hesitant. I hope she chooses to try both sides at least.

  • Ria says:

    I have the exact same situation as Revanche in terms of severe chronic illness and (almost) having a small child (due soon). I've not yet had to turn down an opportunity, but I anticipate that I will have to do so shortly, which saddens me. I try to overcome the necessary limitations of my illness with being much more efficient than most of my co-workers, but that only works to a point, and only with a boss who is more focused on performance than face time.

  • peirama says:

    That is basically the reason I don't want to be a PI. Some people make it work and are happy with how it works out. I know other people are forced to compromise their mental or physical health, which is something I am just not interested in. It is a case where maybe I would try it and end up succeeding at the balance, and that would be great. On the other hand, if I fail at the balance, I will have moved, given up time with my family, and lost time to find another fulfilling career

  • I've done that for things that aren't worth the effort to me. I'm constantly trying to do too much. So, if something comes across my desk that I have hesitations about, then that means that it *really* is too much work for too little reword. 🙂

    Also, I admire people like your colleague (and you) who feel confident about the boundaries that they draw. I constantly feel like I'm not doing enough.

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