Work/Life (Off) Balance

I wanted to share some of my more recent/ongoing experiences of mental health so throughout the week I’ve been jotting down a few thoughts on my Google Keep notes app (other note-type apps are available), and what it has inadvertently highlighted to me is that there are many different issues and personal perspectives that I could cover and discuss, and perhaps I may get the opportunity to write another in the future, but this time around I’m going to focus on my work/life balance.

For most, struggling with their work/life balance means that it’s usually weighted more towards one than the other and therefore, needs to be rebalanced. For me it’s a little different. My work life and personal life are actually pretty equal and well balanced, it’s just that right now it seems like I’m not able to give either of them the time and attention they need, and it feels like I’m failing both every single day.

I’m generally quite a positive-minded person, but that constant feeling of failure can be extremely draining and no matter how much sleep I get I never feel re-energised. Not that we get a great deal of sleep at the moment anyway, but I can’t blame that on our sleepless 6-month-old daughter as my wife gets even less sleep than me and still manages to do an amazing job of comforting and feeding our daughter throughout the night and into the following day.

Instead, most nights after the bedtime routine has finished, I’m in my home studio working away on various projects until the early hours of the morning, fuelled by sugary espresso’s and consumed by the need to just DO MORE! For work, for other local projects I’m involved with, for the many passion projects I have in various stages of development, but ultimately to try and provide for my family and earn a living to build a more comfortable life for us all.

It’s highly unlikely that I’ll need to choose one over the other, but if I did, I’m pretty sure my head and my heart would say the same. My family is so very precious to me, especially after we defied the odds (and the doctors) by having two beautiful daughters after being told (more than once) that we wouldn’t be able to have children. So, I want to be present and a part of as much as possible for my daughters and be there to support my wife whenever I’m needed.

Working from home during lockdown got me used to being around them more. Even though I was out in the garage we’ve recently converted to a home studio, I knew they were right there, and I could see and be with them at any time. I would come in every lunchtime and take over so my wife could have a break, or just make lunch so she had one less thing to worry about. I look back at this as one of the few positive experiences from the whole pandemic situation. Going back to work recently meant I had less distractions, but it left me feeling emotionally (not socially) distanced from them.

On the other side of the equation, we all know it’s a very difficult time for many businesses. Not only do I have the pressure of doing everything I can to ensure that Brand Newark can survive and adapt, which we seem to have managed so far, I also feel an over-whelming need to support other local businesses because I know I have the ability to help. Thankfully, a lot of our clients have risen to the challenge and found their own way through to their new normal. Still, this doesn’t stop me wanting to do more, and this is where my internal struggles begin, as I know I could do more but it always seems to be at the expense of losing out on family time, and I can already feel that I’m in danger of letting the balance tip too far in the wrong direction.

This is where my positive, pragmatic, problem-solving brain usually kicks in and comes up with the perfect solution but finding a fix for my daily feelings of failure remains an ongoing process. I realise that I still have so much to be thankful for and will continue to focus on the positives until the perfect balance can be found.

Paul Andrew is the coffee-loving Creative Director of local design and marketing studio Brand Newark, member of the NYP Social Committee and generally a friend to the Newark business community.