The Balancing Act

RabideauxWhen discussing my participation as a law student blogger with Professor Jessica Slavin, she suggested readers might find the variety of responsibilities and challenges a part-time student faces interesting.  I balked at the idea of writing about my own attempt at work-life-school  balance.  For starters, it’s been done before.   Further, I want to avoid portraying my burden as heavier than those around me, as everyone is busy and dealing with pressures of their own.  The lawyers, law professors and law students who read this blog are all active people pulled in different directions and I didn’t suspect they would have much sympathy for the schedule I keep.

Then it dawned on me that the challenge of work-life balance is probably one of the few things all the readers of this blog have in common.  Full-time students have different pressures than part-time students, litigators face different challenges than estate planning attorneys, who are all under different professional pressures than Law School faculty or administrators.  However, we all know what it is like be put in a position to prioritize between professional and family or personal obligations.

Additionally, the birth of my son, Callan, in June brought new weight to the “life” side of the balancing act and makes the topic of work-life-school balance particularly timely and relevant for me.  I’ve always known time to be precious, but the stakes are indeed higher with a child in the house.  Perhaps it is my Catholic guilt, but the weeknights in the classroom or on the road for work, and the all-weekend study sessions now feel a bit like time I’ve stolen from my family.

I don’t have any advice in this regard, just the observation that achieving true balance does not seem realistic for someone in this position, particularly on a daily or even weekly basis.  That is not to say a law student with a family can’t have a productive career, do well in school, and have a happy home life.  Rather, I just suggest the term “balance” doesn’t seem to accurately capture my reality in managing these dynamic priorities.

I tend to agree with current Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz, who acknowledges the impossibility of true work-life balance in her life.  Ms. Bartz instead focuses on keeping all the balls—representing the main areas of responsibilities in her life—in the air.  The thought conjures an image of a creative and agile juggler, not a symmetrical and faultless gymnast on a beam.

“I have a belief that life isn’t about balance, because balance is perfection,” Bartz says.  “Rather, it’s about catching the ball before it hits the floor.”  I don’t think Ms. Bartz suggests completely neglecting certain parts of her life until crisis occurs.  Rather, she seems to simply acknowledge that most people can only do one thing really well at any given time.  And, as painful as it may be, putting work or school before family, at least occasionally, is a necessary compromise for someone in my shoes.  Conversely, I acknowledge that I’ll most likely forgo certain professional or academic opportunities for the sake of maintaining harmony on the home front.

My life is in a constant state of imbalance.  I suspect this is the same for many of us.  On any given day, I can be a great husband/father, employee or law student, but rarely all of the above.  I can work with this reality.  I’m getting the hang of it.  I guess I’ll just worry about what I can accomplish today, and keep my eye on the ball that’s closest to the ground.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carolyn Lien-Happel

    Very well said, Jay! It is incredibly difficult to do it all, be successful at everything, and find some time for yourself. I struggle to find the perfect balance between work, school and family as well.

    It is easy to become overwhelmed (and the semester has not even started yet). I have found it helpful to write in a journal all the things I HAVE accomplished that day. Rather than stressing about what you can’t get done, focus on the positive and what you did do and what you are grateful for.

    Congrats to you and your wife on a beautiful baby boy. The “pre-law” onesie that he’s wearing is adorable.

  2. Melissa Greipp

    Great points, Jay! A legal writing professor, Hollee Temple, and a journalist, Becky Beaupre Gillespie, recently started a blog that focuses on the work/life balance issue. The link to the blog is

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.