My daughter recently told me that she was giving up the pursuit of Work-Life Balance, and was instead going to strive for Work-Life Integration.
She is a highly regarded partner in a successful law firm, she is actively involved in several community boards and committees, she has two energetic and busy children, a home, a husband, and a vigorous social life. She is the epitome of a modern woman who has achieved it all.
And her wisdom in this distinction, took my breathe away.
While Work-Life Balance may currently be a buzz word, there are too many flaws and inconsistencies built into the concept. (see my blog of Sept. 12, 2021 – The Myth of Work Life Balance). Work-Life Integration is an entirely different way to approach our lives.
Integration has long been a focus in education. When teachers create “integrated units and lessons”, they are not focused solely on math or reading or science or social studies standards. Integrated activities are units of study that involve all content areas, and engage students in authentic tasks that include multiple concepts and skills. As they practice reading skills, they are learning science. As they write for real purposes, they are exploring social studies ideas. As they collect scientific or socials studies data, they are strengthening their math skills. They are mastering content as they strengthen their communication skills.
Educational research tells us that this holistic approach increases student engagement and allows them opportunities to build real-life connections and applications. What they are learning becomes more coherent and connected to the real-world.
While I have lived this approach in the classroom for decades, applying it to my own life is a new concept for me.
Through this lens, blurring the lines between our work and home life is a positive thing. There are no longer walls defining the parts of our day or the tasks we need to accomplish. When we integrate, we look at how we might merge some things. For example, my daughter recently asked my husband if he could build her a desk-like attachment for her stationery bike, that would be big enough to support her laptop. That way she could catch up on emails or read documents while working out.
But integration is more than just multi-tasking. Integration is helping the different aspects of our lives to fit together in seamless ways. And this braid becomes stronger and more resilient as each strand supports the other strands.
When the pandemic hit and many were forced to move their work space into their homes, figuring out how these two halves of our lives fit together became necessary. Some sought out balance. Some looked to integrate.
Balance seems like a final assessment. While integration seems like a process. The term balance has an accepted definition of “both sides being equal”, the term integration can be much more individualized. What does it look like to you when different aspects of your life merge?
Integration doesn’t mean that we discard things like setting boundaries, but we acknowledge that sometimes those boundaries shift.
Clearly, the nuances of integration are different for different careers and industries, as well as for different stages in ones’ life. Integration when you have little ones living at home is certainly different than integration as an empty-nester.
I think the most powerful thing about seeking an integrated life, is that there are no expectations for what that should look like. Everyone gets to create their own version, that works for them, and helps to bring peace, fulfillment, and contribution to their life.
Wishing everyone integration!