The Alban Institute has an article by David Edman Gray on our seemingly never ending struggle to balance “work” and “life”:
Millions of Americans feel they are rushing through life and experience competition between their work and non-work lives. Parents of young children often feel especially squeezed between work requirements and family obligations. Chances are your congregation is full of families that are experiencing such pressure; if not, chances are that you would like your congregation to be full of such people.
Gray states at the outset that faith communities need to be concerned and involved:
Moreover, congregations of all faith traditions are called to meet the needs of their communities and world and to help members deal with the problems they face. Beyond that, members of many faith traditions—from Muslims to Hindus to Jews to Christians—take seriously the call to care for our world by trying to improve it. As they seek to energize, educate, equip, console, and strengthen their members, U.S. congregations should care about and address the challenges and stresses their members face. The mission of many faith communities includes helping members deal with the anxieties of our culture in order to live more fruitful lives. Stress and imbalance can prevent us from developing a deeper connection with God and from enjoying life.
Gray looks at how the relationship between work and family life has changed over the last 40 years, including how the families are structured, realities of who needs to work, the challenges to participate in school and other activities, the care of elderly relatives, and the role technology has on families. Gray also explores our complicated relationship with work, and how the struggle to balance work with home is of great importance:
I believe work-life imbalance has become a national issue. Fortunately, the problem is gaining the attention of business and union leaders. Many companies and organizations are working on work-life balance solutions as a business strategy at both local and national levels. Moreover, the issue has caught the attention of policy makers in Washington. Numerous bills have been introduced in Congress to address the fundamental mismatch between the needs of U.S. workers and families and the structure of work in America.
As I have read the social science research, listened to people’s struggles, studied theology as a pastor, and dealt with my own work-life imbalance, I have come to believe that increasing workplace flexibility and deepening individual spiritual practice are two of the most important solutions that can help Americans—and particularly Christians in congregations—live a balanced life. Greater workplace flexibility can allow people to attend more realistically to both their employment and family lives. Enriched spiritual practices can keep people emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy, so that they are able to meet their responsibilities and live life to the fullest.
How do you struggle with this balance? How do you help others do so as well?