This is a post reflecting on this concept of work/life balance and how my upbringing in an immigrant working class household whose father worked three or four jobs to support his family, shaped how I view my work and life. It also led to me to thinking on whether this discussion is in itself a privilege afforded to those who have enough financial resources to have this conversation. This reflection is a result of observing conversations about this topic and wellness on social media amongst a group of student affairs professionals and at the same time painfully watching the devastation brought on by the typhoon in the Philippines and watching those lucky enough to live through the typhoon go in survival mode. This post is by no means a commentary on other people’s thoughts and their definition of proper work/life balance as ultimately, work/life balance is a personal decision. For me, I grew up thinking I’m fortunate to have a job and I do what I need to do to succeed, including working long hours, more than anyone else, to be able to be considered equal to my peers.
When my family and I immigrated to the United States, my parents, who are both educated in the Philippines, took jobs at the mall. My dad worked as a janitor and my mom worked at a pizza place. They needed to get the job they could get to support us. When I was in high school, they established their janitorial business in addition to their full-time jobs and my dad also mowed lawns. I don’t remember having any discussions about work/life balance growing up. This is the environment I grew up in. It wasn’t as if we were poor, maybe we were middle class, but certainly did not have the material belongings and other opportunities my wife and I could fortunately afford now. So, thinking about how I grew up, I ask these questions – do folks who are working in manual labor, working two or three jobs at minimum wage, ever have discussions on work/life balance when they’re trying to feed their families? How about single parents who need to work more than 8-5 to survive and at the same time must schedule their lunch breaks to accommodate their children’s activities? How about folks who are just trying to get jobs?
I’m not saying folks work/life balance should not happen because it definitely has real implications when it comes to mental/physical well-being and relationships. I do wonder if this discussion in itself is a privilege not afforded to all.