Work Life Sway

Work-life balance doesn't exist

I was rushing off the subway to get to a high-stakes meeting with my boss. She was a workaholic and mother to a preschooler. She was a serious woman who I didn't like or understand. I thought at most I would learn about how legislative changes impact our work for the upcoming quarter. Instead, something else happened that I would not understand until many years later.

The phone rang, and with a whole room full of her subordinates, she took the call.

"Ok, what do you mean?" she asked.

"Make sure the strap is on.”

"Oh...take him to the park afterwards."

"And make sure he runs through the sprinklers."

After she hung up, she returned to the table and kept speaking exactly where she left off. She made no apologies.

My colleague whispered to me “disrespectful of everyone’s time per usual.”

I was impressionable back then. I didn’t even know how to respond. I tried really hard to fit in. I simply smiled.

When I reflect back on this time of life when I was coming of age, I cringe. What she did, what my younger self had no appreciation or respect for, was work-life sway.

Work-life sway is the ability to move in and out of a moment irrespective of your current setting.

My boss had swayed out of an important meeting into a conversation with her nanny about something pressing with her son. She did it flawlessly.  

What's even more puzzling to me now: she was of the baby boomer generation. She had it much harder than generation Xers and millennials, according to Joann Lublin's Power Moms, because of heightened gendered norms, less technology, and fewer opportunities for social support.

I am still in awe of how she specified the need to run through the sprinklers. Neuronal development of children is directly influenced by touchpoints, experiences, and the ability to have tactile and sensory exploration. My boss knew it wasn't good enough for her son to just play in the park, but that he needed to experience it. She was fully present on that call, making sure that she did her best for him even though she wasn't physically there.

What I saw as an off-beat disturbance is now the boldest move I have seen a professional make.

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