A Real Response to ‘How Do You Achieve Work-Life Balance?’
Julie Zhuo, the vice president of product design at Facebook, writes about the complexities of ‘doing it all’
“How do you achieve work-life balance?”
Whenever I do a fireside chat or a Q&A, this question will pop up like a predictable, well-crisped piece of toast. The question almost always comes from a woman. Most recently, a high school student asked it during a Q&A in Chicago. I suppose the stroller next to me that held my sleeping newborn was the equivalent of a neon sign blaring “ASK ME ABOUT MOTHERHOOD!”
But as often as I get this question about work-life balance, it still stumps me. Putting aside the fact that men almost never seem to get asked how they “do it all” (a topic for another day), I end up giving different answers every time, which probably makes me look extremely inconsistent.
A predictable, well-crisped toast of a question deserves better. It deserves an answer richly smothered with butter and nuance. So here it goes.
One reason this question is so complicated is because the words “how do you achieve…” implies that I have achieved it, that this golden chalice of “work-life balance” is somehow in my possession, sitting pretty in my cupboard. This is not true. (My cupboard is actually filled with Yeti mugs.)
Most evenings, my end-of-day routine starts with a private lament that sounds something like this: “WHYYYYYYY ISN’T THERE MORE TIME IN THE DAYYYYYY?!?!” Once that’s done, I spend a few minutes fantasizing about all the yet-to-be-invented pieces of technology that could make life easier: a pill that lets me function beautifully without sleep; a sleek, matte-black remote control with a pause button, allowing me to freeze everyone else while I get several additional hours while everyone else is frozen mid-pizza-bite; a brain implant that enables me to think and act seven times faster than I currently do; a machine that clones me several times over, but keeps all our thoughts connected via a giant hive mind.
Then I fantasize about all the things I’d do with that extra time these inventions would give me. Encourage my kids to expand beyond the Elephant & Piggie books they ask me to…