When my teenage son left home, I was still a mother and I was still working, but I was no longer a “working mother” as such. It was liberating to realise that I didn’t need to stress about meetings over-running at the end of the day, or get anxious about staying late to meet a deadline, or feel guilty about going for drinks after work! Of course, it was a while since I’d had to leave work on the dot to dash off to pick up my son and there was a high chance of him barely emerging from his room when I was at home, but there’s always that sense of wanting “to be there” for our kids, isn’t there?
And so the emptying of my nest tipped my work-life balance.…towards work.
The demands parenting had made on my time, energy and finances had made carrying on as I was professionally the easy option for many years. But as those demands eased I could no longer avoid the fact that I wasn’t happy at work. My son leaving home “freed” me to focus on work...and made me realise that it couldn’t fill the hole his departure had left, that I was already middle aged and life was too short to carry on spending so much time and energy on something that wasn’t meaningful or enjoyable for me.
And so the emptying of my nest tipped my work-life balance….towards life.
As I continued to reconnect with the sense of self and purpose that had been buried under layers built up by motherhood, corporate conformity and life in general, I became more aware of what truly mattered to me, and brave enough to make a big leap into work that is so aligned with my identity and values that it doesn’t feel like work.
And so the emptying of my nest tipped my work-life balance over and showed me that work should not be in opposition to life, but rather an integral, enjoyable, meaningful part of it.