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Kleppner: Summer Work-Life Balance

Summer is supposed to be a relaxed time of cookouts and softball games, but these days, it feels as if life doesn’t slow down even one little bit for summer. Work is as relentless as always, and while there’s more light in the evenings, there’s still no more time. Our volunteer work at the school may end, but we’re as needed at the soup kitchen as ever.

In fact, the phrase work/life balance doesn’t really capture all the moving parts. It’s more of a five-part juggle: work, family, friends, community, and self. And with the kids out of school for the summer, the family part is even tougher.

We’ve got to be at work for a lot of hours a week, winter and summer.

We also have some commitments to our community, whether it’s volunteering at a non-profit, coaching a kids’ team, helping at school, being part of a church group, taking an elderly neighbor grocery shopping, or the hundred other ways we contribute to our communities, most of which don’t stop when summer arrives.

Our formal commitments to work and community take a lot of time, and if we have kids, we want to spend every last precious remaining minute with them. Hanging out with friends and doing things for and by ourselves on the weekends can feel downright selfish when we haven’t seen much of our family all week.

I once heard a wellness consultant suggest that we put our workouts on the calendar and take those appointments with the gym as seriously as we would take a business meeting, which is to say, we don’t skip our workout for anything that wouldn’t cause us to skip a meeting.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that he and his wife each schedule one night a month to do something with their friends while the other stays home and watches the kids.

I’ve even heard about couples who schedule what we might discretely call grown-up time.

I’ll confess that I’m not all that happy about the notion of making appointments to see my friends, much less my wife and kids, and it’s probably a symptom of an out-of-balance life or maybe even an out-of-balance society, but I have to admit that spending time with my family and friends by appointment is a lot better than not seeing them at all.

So, summer fun here we come! Right on schedule.

Bram Kleppner is CEO of Danforth Pewter, Board Chair at the Population Media Center, and Co-Chair of Vermont's Medicaid & Exchange Advisory Board. His mission is to take steps large and small to fight global warming and to bring the world's population into balance with its renewable resources.
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