Work-life balance? That’s the least of it.

I get heartily sick of the challenge of raising a family being characterised in terms of work-life balance.

Who thought of that phrase?

It makes it sound as though the only things we need are to earn a living and spend time with our families.  The implication is that so long as we’ve risen to the  challenge of getting work and childcare covered, we’re sorted.

Well, I’ve got news – we’re not.

I need solitude

I have another need and that need is for solitude.  I’ll say it again, but louder: “SOLITUDE.”

I need time to be alone/pray/write. (I use forward slashes rather than commas because I’m not sure if they are different things.)

It is that need for solitude that too often goes unrecognised and therefore gets squeezed and therefore needs naming in capital letters.

Earlier this year I agreed to give a talk on revelation, identity and social media at the Greenbelt Festival. I rashly took this on in January when I had just taken redundancy and therefore anticipated I might be twiddling my thumbs around the August Bank Holiday (ho, ho).

What  difference three days makes

As a result I have  had to clear the time (three whole days so far) to be by myself and do a bit of reading and thinking and praying and writing – whatever name you give to what I do in my study.

Do you know? It has made me feel so good…. I was able to pay attention to random thoughts that had surfaced and been left hanging around like odd socks for far too many years.  I felt peaceful, deeper, ‘gathered-in.’

I must do this more often. I WILL do it more often. Prayer/writing/solitude might not get named in “having it all” features in glossy magazines but I’m naming it and I’m doing it now.

Woman holding cup saying: "the Adventure begins."

Comments: 11

  1. Anne Booth says:

    Jo, I absolutely agree. I cannot function as a mother – I cannot function as a person – without some solitude. I can feel my self disintegrating without some gathering- in time every day. Unfortunately, I do forget this, and am often only reminded by noticing (or having it pointed out to me by my family) that I am being unreasonable or short tempered or, even if I am not outwardly grumpy, becoming depressed. I think daily prayer/solitude/writing time is not just a pious aspiration- it is essnential for integrity and rootedness – and even 10 minutes true solitude is like a glass of water when you are dehydrated. I REALLY agree with this blog!

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Although I can’t comment on looking after a family I do know how you feel about making the most of that little bit of solitude. Whether it’s just to sit quietly for an hour to gather your thoughts, go for a walk or even go swimming (something I find really helps let me gather my thoughts), it’s vital to have that bit of alone time or you’ll just end up going mad.

  3. Thanks Chris and Anne. The interesting thing is that something that’s so essential seems to be recognised very little by society as a whole.

  4. Anne Booth says:

    Have you read the book ‘Solitude’ by Anthony (Antony?) Storr. I was recommended it at Heythrop & really enjoyed it.

  5. Ooooh. I’ve just looked at a review of it. Extraversion and introversion as they are applied to solitude….fascinating! Yes, I must read that one day.

  6. Liz Curran says:

    Hi I really liked this. Will look out for your talk at GB10. ‘wasting’ Saturday mornings at my kitchen table drinking tea randomly scanning twitter generally stopping and not moving are an essential part of my recovery from and reflection on my week. Sundays are another alarm click day due to church and choir commitments so Saturday am is my time. I need it!

  7. “Wasting” time is a hugely under-rated activity. I’ve spent far too many a day beating myself up for wasting time after a hard week at work. In fact it’s an essential part of the process of moving from one mode into another. Here’s to more time-wasting. It would be good to see you at Greenbelt. I’m on Monday at 1pm Literature Marquee.

  8. Will Richardson says:

    I prefer the terms day-dreaming and re-creation, the latter particularly as it describes what’s really going on…just wish I could spend, sorry, invest, more time doing it as I tend to be drawn by my interests online/Facebook (does that make IT the current opium of the masses?! 😉 )…it’s part of the problem of being a reader/cross pollenator..internet butterfly, moi?

  9. Isn’t playing online a form of day-dreaming and re-creation? If you get reading and clicking with no fixed agenda other than to explore and cross-pollenate, can you not be “wasting” time in a prayerful and creative way?

  10. Terrence Buonaiuto says:

    Fantastic stuff. Going to want a bit of time to think over this post!

  11. Thanks Terrence. I love your surname, by the way. I’m telling myself it means “a very good and joyful day.” Can I borrow it?

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