Does Work/Life Balance Actually Exist?
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. There! I just saved you from needless reading.
But seriously, a lot of discussion around freelancing alludes to the idea of ditching the 9-5, and the enormous amount of freedom that being your own boss can give to you. Take back your life! Get out of the grind! Stop living for the weekends! And while all of these things are built-in benefits of working for yourself, I think there is a misconception that quitting your day job is an immediate path to a worry-free lifestyle. It ain’t.
Your home is your office and your office is your home. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the fact that the commute to my office is merely the number of steps it takes to get from my bed to my office in my home. (In the name of research and thoroughness, I just counted: 16 steps.) It’s wonderful to wake up every morning and know that there is no rush to get anywhere. No lunches to pack, no traffic to contend with. Just me and my huge cup of coffee to start my day. It’s fantastic.
What isn’t so fantastic is that I can’t really compartmentalize my office from the rest of my home. There is just no shutting the door and pretending that my business and my livelihood can just wait until tomorrow. In the life of a freelancer, there is always work to be done or something you can be doing to keep things chugging along. Always. Where the physical office space separates home and work for most folks, working from home can be a just a giant blur of work and life all at once.
Taking breaks during the work day is difficult. I remember during my stints working at a public service office job (holla Health Canada!) I would just live for my breaks during the day. I was lucky that my office was in a really nice area across the street from a park, and I would set up and eat my lunch on the grass, read a trashy magazine, or do whatever it was that in my mind, wasn’t working. And it was great! I would come back after lunch feeling refreshed, reenergized and ready for the rest of the day.
Breaks in the freelancing lifestyle are non-existent. Instead of patiently counting down the minutes until lunch, it’s more like – holy crap, it’s 2PM and I haven’t stopped staring at this screen in 6 hours. It’s important to take the time during the day to tend to your basic needs but when you work from home its really easy to put those kinds of things on the backburner. “Oh I’ll just finish this one last thing!” – famous last words.
Another major thing I struggle with is the feeling of being cooped up in my house all the live long day. It’s a double-edged sword – the days I am intensely focused and accomplish more than what I set out give me a feeling of satisfaction in my work, but it inevitably means I was home in front of a computer screen or in the studio for a ton of hours. Being in the groove and working until dark can be super satisfying, but super sad when you realize you didn’t go outside. At all. During those days I reach in the depths of my kitchen cupboards for a Vitamin D supplement.
That’ll make up for it, right?