The work-life balance debate has come to the forefront, and it probably isn't going anywhere. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer laid down the law with her policy of no telecommuting, and recently offered expanded maternity leave benefits. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In talks about how women should stop holding themselves back from reaching their full potential.
Reactions, both in agreement and disagreement, have been passionate.
So where does that leave you and me? Should we strive to achieve work-life balance? Is it possible? Does it even exist?
I think work-life balance is definitely attainable, but every individual's definition of work-life balance is different. It's a personal choice we make about how we want to live our lives.
Just about everyone agrees that it's not realistic to draw a line in the sand and say, "This is work, this is my personal life, and never the twain shall meet." Technology has permanently blurred that line, making it impossible to keep our personal lives from invading our professional lives and vice versa.
For those who complain about people bringing work home too often, let's be honest. We were scheduling doctor's appointments, figuring out soccer practice carpools and writing out bills from the office long before we started answering work emails on our smartphones at home. It goes both ways.
How we define work-life balance is a personal choice because we all have different priorities. What's acceptable or unacceptable -- to you, your family, and your professional goals?
What time should you be home from work? When is it time to put the smartphone away? Is it okay to keep it on as long as you don't answer calls or respond to emails? Do you designate certain times when it is okay to respond? Are there exceptions to the rules? Are these rules realistic?
More importantly, how far are you willing to go to maintain your definition of work-life balance? Are you willing to tell your boss that you're unavailable during certain times at home? Are you willing to look for a new job if your current job simply won't allow for the balance you need?
If you're the boss, are you willing to invest in people who can shoulder some of the load and provide you with more family time? Are you willing to invest in help for certain tasks around the house (errands, cleaning, yard work, etc.) so you can make better use of your time spent at home?
Ultimately, we can't let other people tell us what work-life balance is or should be. What might work for a millionaire executive with 12 nannies probably won't work for a small business owner who wears 12 hats.
Work-life balance is up to you. How you define it, and how far you'll go to keep it, are your choices to make and nobody else's. Be strong, be fair, be realistic, and most importantly, be happy. Isn't that the essence of work-life balance anyway?