The experts tell us our ideal life should be in thirds. One third work, one third domestic and one third social.
If you agree with this then maybe you should make lists of what constitutes your working life in one third; what constitutes your social life in one third and what constitutes your domestic life in one third and I think you’ll probably find some overlapping.
Don’t worry if they’re not perfect thirds – they rarely are. Lawyers, and all professional people, will automatically learn toward having a larger third working life and much smaller thirds of domestic and social lives. If there are any housewives (and let’s look at the reality which is that almost everyone works these days), they will probably learn towards having much larger thirds of social and domestic lives, and a great deal less time for the working third; and so on.
This is where the give and take comes in. Some Lawyers – male and female - have, at some time in their careers, drafted a document for a divorcing couple with children – parenting – visitation rights and etc. Try to remove yourself from your own situation by looking at it through the eyes you must use when being impersonal and reconstructing a divided family.
Naturally there will be forfeits to be made on all sides but it can be done. If you can communicate without arguing or fighting, you will, within a fairly short space of time, come up with a really workable schedule – and remember, you’re not getting divorced!
The secret answer to all of this balance; the magic equation for all that you want to accomplish; is right here. It’s called talking, negotiating, being reasonable. It’s also about listening and hearing what your partner has to say about each issue. Hear them out and consider their point of view and be open to their suggestions as they were to you and yours.
You might find yourself re-acting quite negatively before your partner has finished talking. Don’t do that. It’s unreasonable. You both have to listen carefully to each other and even negotiate until you settle on a satisfactory arrangement where you both benefit, even if you both must also forfeit. To gain a little is better than forfeiting a lot!
I think it’s perfectly clear that each partner must be tough on themselves. It’s no good agreeing to something just to keep the peace, if you hate it! Learn to say No and learn to set boundaries to which you will keep.
Take the TV out of the bedroom. Don’t let your friends overstay their welcome. Spend more time together alone. Yes, that means sometimes also away from the kids (especially if Grandparents are available and hands on). Make a point of doing things together. Little things – going for a short walk; making breakfast. Nothing has to be lavish or on a grand scale – after all, it’s all about the little things.
Give each other some leeway with your respective friends – even those you don’t like. You’re both entitled to time alone with people your Spouse doesn’t like – as long as we’re only talking innocent friendships here. This is a trust situation so being trustworthy and trusting.
Spend a little time alone when you can grab it. Play your own music; do some gardening; go to the gym; or do something nice for your Spouse.
Lawyers would work all day and night if someone didn’t remind them to switch off. So, your Lawyer/ Spouse might take long to unwind. They have things on their minds that they can’t unsee or unread – it’s very hard for them When you see them making an extra effort be sensitive to this and show that you’ve noticed.
When Lawyer’s families are needing attention it’s tough for the Lawyer to put everything out of their minds and play games with the kids and the in-laws, but give them time and they’ll come around.
Achieving that work-life balance for Lawyers is about having a supportive and understanding family and practicing a lot of give and take to get through the rough parts. So, it’s vital that the Lawyer – male or female – finds the right partner to spend their lives with.
The real sacrifices become necessary when the Lawyer’s Spouse doesn’t have work or a decent hobby. If the wife is the Lawyer and the husband stays home and looks after their 6 years daughter, then what does he do between dropping off and picking up? Maybe a really good hobby in woodworking or painting or even cooking would work. If would keep them really busy during the day and they might even be able to make a little money from it. To spend a good deal of your life sitting around waiting for your Lawyer/ Spouse to come home and spend time with you is an unrewarding situation in which to be. If your husband is the Lawyer and you are a housewife, maybe look at a hobby of learning to type and handle clerical things, or start a blog and become a blogger on, say, fashion or cosmetics or whatever takes your interest, or you could learn about working out and become a person trainer so you can pick you own hours All this to consider to give your life the lift it needs and to maybe kick start a different kind of career; one that fascinates and fulfils you most of the time. You will find that so rewarding that a lot of the time you won’t notice exactly what time your Lawyer/ Spouse comes home.
On a different note, some Lawyers have their own Law Firm and practice from home. Therefore, they are there most of the day. They might be at home all day, but their minds are not. So the other Spouse still needs to find something to hold their interest and keep them busy most of the day.
I’m writing this knowing already that not many Lawyers do actually achieve that balance I have spoken of in my previous article and now this one. I think it’s every Lawyer’s personal vision; finding that sweet spot for couples; the rich harmony that a rather reedy solo needs; matching the yin to the yang; the light to the dark; adding the reality to the dream.
When they do find the right partner, everything improves. Sure, there are obstacles and problems along the way, but once handled, these original setbacks become improvements, and make the little family unit stronger.
There are some Lawyers who consider consulting with Life Coaches, and others who think about going to Group Counselling and yet others who talk about setting up private therapy sessions. Of course, none of them ever go – they just can’t seem to make time in their busy workaholic schedules.
Let’s face it – we all need to acknowledge reality and really make an effort. It’s no good shrugging your shoulders and hoping it will pass.
Anything important is to be worked on, and when a Lawyer does achieve work-life balance, they are to be congratulated and, maybe, even emulated in little ways because that couple have virtually found the Holy Grail – and that’s something to be celebrated and treasured!