Work Life Balance is An Illusion

May 30, 2014, Written by Sue Miley

Work life balance is an illusion that has been created that makes people feel like they can and should have it all.  Why can’t I have the high-powered job, a happy spouse and kids, hobbies that are true passions, and friends deeper than the ocean?

Articles from others suggest:

  • It’s possible if you just planned better, worked more efficiently, and were superman (woman) on steroids.
  • It’s possible if you just cut back a little on everything, and equally split the time, and don’t worry everyone will understand as long as they have their fair share of your time.

It comes down to working yourself to death, or compromising on everything to the point that no one’s happy.

Trying to balance it all is the dream.

Trying to balance it all is an illusion.

Trying to balance it all defeats us.


It’s simple.  There are only so many hours in the day and you are only one person.

When we are young we have a lot more energy.

When I was younger I had the executive position at work that was all consuming, a husband and three kids that needed love and nurturing, and a big house that needed maintaining.  I was young, energetic, and healthy.  I thought I could do it all.

I did do it all.

For a while.

With No Margin A Crash Is Inevitable

And then it all crashed.  I had no margin.  I had expanded each role to the point where every waking minute of each day was accounted for.  When something went wrong, there was no room to fit it in.

If something required additional attention, something else had to give.

And ultimately, someone was mad.

Competing Priorities

When my daughter was diagnosed with Alopecia Totalis, I thought she was dying.  I didn’t know it was just cosmetic hair loss.  I wanted to be with her and take her to all of the specialists to fix the problem.  Only no amount of money or position can fix this condition.

Once I realized she wasn’t dying, I just wanted to spend more time with her.  I wanted to help her adjust.  When you are 8 years old and all of your hair falls out this can be a pretty confusing time.

I always said that family was the most important part of my life.

Now my family needed me more so I needed to get more balance.

My strategy was to cut back at work.  After all, hadn’t I given work 60-70 hours a week for about a decade now.

I will just compromise and equal out my time and everything will be back in balance.

That was an illusion.

When I did this work suffered.  I was at a level that required significant engagement at all times.  My division had huge goals to meet.  This can’t happen without full commitment.

And even when I did it.  When I backed off of work.  I still couldn’t make all of the doctor’s appointments and spend the time with my daughter I wanted.  Oh, and I still had a husband and two other children.

The equation just didn’t work.

If work life balance doesn’t work, then what does?  Are we destined to go back to only men having careers and women staying at home with the kids and taking care of the household?

God’s Plan Creates Balance

Actually, in typing this last sentence, I can kind of see why God created our roles that way originally.  It makes sense.

He said that when we marry two shall become one.

Our oneness can have balance together in our proper roles.

Unfortunately society has already mixed and matched our roles so we need other solutions.

This is the one I came up with.

A Season For Everything Under the Sun


Man or woman.

We just can’t sustain doing it all.  However, we can plan and shift our focus based on the different seasons in our life.

For each of us it will look different because we all reach different seasons at different times in life.

Here is an example:

Student:  Focus on school, friends, and hobbies.

Unmarried college graduate:  Focus on career and hobbies.  Friends are still around but we some times go our separate ways after college.  Time to maximize career growth.

Married:  Focus on spouse, career, and mutual hobbies.

Married with kids:  Spouse, kids and career definitely start to push away hobbies and friends.

Married with older kids: Spouse, work, and now we add back in friends and hobbies because our kids are always gone!

Married and retired: Spouse, friends, and hobbies are all important.

In reality, this is what naturally happens unless we kill ourselves and try to keep everything going, or if we personally maintain one area of focus to the detriment of the others.

(I didn’t forget serving, health, faith in the example above.  And I am sure there are more.  I just wanted to show an example.)

Around that time, when my kids were young, and the plates I was carefully spinning started crashing, I had to let something go.  I could no longer do it all.

I couldn’t balance the equation.

For me the work plate shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

At least for a season.

And the season was much shorter in hindsight than I had anticipated it feeling when I let it go.

As the season changed again, I gathered up those pieces of the work plate, and began to piece them back together.

Over time.

A new career was created out of all of my life and business experiences.  As the pieces of the plate came back together a beautiful mosaic emerged.

God’s Timing Is Perfect

God creates us with different gifts and talents.  He gives us our passions and interests.  And He gives us a lifetime to fulfill his plan for each of us.

Is it balanced?  Maybe over our lifetime, but not necessarily at any given moment.

Do you struggle with finding balance in your life?  Are you trying to do it all?  When you consider the season of your life right now, how would you change how you spend your time?

Reader Interactions


  1. Yuklin Zoutendijk says

    Dear Sue,

    I just want to thank you for your blog “We can do anything, but we can’t do everything, at least not at the same time”.
    Only just a few days ago, while doing the dishes, I asked God: “Why don’t I have enough time to do all that I want to do?” For just as you I can remember how super energetic I was and felt I was capable of much; but now, nearly fifty, 5 years ago cancer patient, my oldest girl of two just turned 18, I am now into the acceptance phase of “A season for everything under the sun” and “God’s timing is perfect”. It’s great to trust him more, as I leave behind the elementary beliefs of “A balanced life” and cling to his ideas of what that is.

    • Sue Miley says

      Hi Yuklin,

      I am so glad this helped. I see so many people burning themselves out trying to do it all! Then you burnout and feel like you have to do even less. I pray for blessings to this season in your life!

  2. Kim Kelly says

    Thank you for not only this article,but the other articles I’ve read! You have a great insight & you “cut to the chase” as we say. Yet share useful info./input.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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