This post reflects on this concept of work/life balance and how my upbringing in a working-class immigrant household whose father worked three or four jobs to support his family shaped how I view my work and life.  It also led me to consider whether this discussion is a privilege afforded to those with enough financial resources to have a 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 gale go in survival mode. This post is no longer a commentary on other people’s thoughts and their definition of proper work/life balance; ultimately, work/life balance is a personal decision. 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 considered equal to my peers.

When my family and I immigrated to the United States, my parents, 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 and their full-time jobs, and my dad also mowed lawns. I don’t remember discussing 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 we certainly did not have the material belongings and other opportunities my wife and I could afford now. So, thinking about how I grew up, I ask these questions: Do folks 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 has real implications regarding mental/physical well-being and relationships. I wonder if this discussion is a privilege not afforded to all.