ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb.

Welcome to ArchiTalk #12! If you’re new to ArchiTalks, it is a series curated by Bob Borson over at Life of an Architect, where a whole bunch of architectural bloggers all blog about the same topic on the same day. This month’s topic: Work/Life. Check out many other blogger’s posts via the links at the bottom, which are sure to be ripe with excellent advice on this topic!


Work/Life. I know the next word that popped into your head. It was balance, wasn’t it? For the majority of us, when the words ‘work’ and ‘life’ are mentioned together… ‘balance’ is not too far behind. Or rather, lack thereof. It is worth noting here that this series explicitly does NOT include the word ‘balance’. But for me, it’s where my mind immediately goes.  I’m quite certain there will be some great advice in some of the other ArchiTalk blogs (links below – be sure to check them out). But I’m not sure I have loads of advice to offer about achieving balance… because frankly, I simply suck at balancing my work and my life. I’m great at NOT balancing my work and my life. You’ll note that the tagline for my blog includes the words ‘living a life of managed disequilibrium’. And therein lies the point of my post today.

One question I get asked pretty often when people find out that I’m a mom of two young kids and a full-time working architect is: ‘How do you do it all?’. The answer is always the same: ‘I don’t’. Something always gives. Which is to say, my work and my life are never in perfect balance. I actually find the whole idea of work/life balance pretty odd. It immediately assumes that work and life are at odds, or on opposite ends of the proverbial teeter-totter. For me, my work and my life are pretty intertwined. I’m not going to go so far as to say my work IS my life, but it is a part of it. And my life helps to shape who I am at work. These two things are completely inextricable. So why must they be at odds? I admit, I think about (and do) work when I’m at home. And just like everyone else, I think about home when I’m at work. I schedule appointments, I look up recipes a friend recommends.

A different way to think about work/life is for me personally is architect(work)/mom(life). These are two different roles that I play, but again – one truly informs the other. Using my creative brain at work helps me to be a more creative thinker as a mother. And I can promise you being a mom has certainly improved my time/management skills at work! Again, these things seem inextricable. One reinforces the other. I am a better architect because I am a mom. I am a better mom because I am an architect. And yet, I admit that these things are often pulling me in what feels like opposite directions.

When I’m feeling pulled in those opposite directions, I remind myself that I am better at each because of the other. I also remind myself that balance is a verb. Is an action word. It requires work, effort and action on my part. My life is quite literally never in the state of ‘balance’, but rather I’m often teeter-tottering between one or the other. There are moments when I’m focused on work, and I rely on my husband to take care of things at home. And there are times when I simply cannot make that client meeting because I have some important stuff to take care of at home, and I rely on my team to take care of things at work. It is truly a give and take, and ‘balance’ is a fleeting moment as I slide between being an architect and being a mom (and a wife, and a friend, and time for myself!).

I don’t want to be misleading though. There was a time (in the not-so-distant past) that I tried incredibly hard to find the perfect work/life balance. I thought it existed, and if I worked hard enough, I could achieve it. When I realized I was flat out wrong (which took a very long time to figure out), I then had to figure out how to be okay with work/life IMBALANCE. The solution for me was being genuinely okay with being fully immersed in life sometimes, and other times being fully immersed in work. And yes, it does happen that important client meetings get scheduled at the same time at important soccer games- and in those moments I have to choose. So I do just that- I pick one and I do my best to be genuinely okay with my decision (read: I TRY TO NOT FEEL GUILTY!). Once I was able to let go of the guilt of not being fully present all the time at work and at home, life got a lot easier. This is still something I have to work at (remember: balance = verb = action), and slowly but surely, I’ll get better at it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this example of how work and life, for me, are so completely intertwined. Tonight, as I read ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’ by Dr. Seuss to my daughter, I was both reading to her, and to myself:

“Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray (or Amy, or…?)
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

And guess what dear reader. Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way! You WILL achieve great things!

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Work | Life – Different Letters, Same Word

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Work / Life : Life / Work

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Work/Life…What an Architect Does

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The One Secret to Work – Life Balance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
work | life :: dance

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: Work/life…attempts

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what makes you giggle? #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Turning It Off

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Work/Life — A Merger

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Work Life

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
An Architect’s House

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Brady Ernst – Family Man Since 08/01/2015

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Father, Husband, Architect – typically in that order

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
On Work:Life Balance ~ Cattywampus Is As Good As It Gets

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Work = 1/3 Life

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies – 5 Hints for Expecting Parents

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Work is Life

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
studio / life

Lindsey Rhoden – SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Work Life Balance: A Photo Essay

One Comment

  1. Lora Teagarden

    September 10, 2015

    Great post, Amy. Embrace the swirl of crazy. Balance is what you make it.

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