MSL Work-Life Balance: Hours for Pay

How much do you want to work?

What are you working toward?

What does it look like when you get there?

Recently I created a poll asking how many hours people want to work if they are paid the same per-hour rates:

Would you work 40 hours to earn $200,000?
Or would you rather work 20 hours to earn $100,000?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a while. 2.4 years, to be exact, because this is how long I have been a parent. I was always a borderline workaholic…. OK, if you asked my husband he will tell me to remove “borderline” and restate the sentence.

After all, the very first “popular” article I wrote was when I worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep and I entered Pharmaceutical Representative magazine’s 1999 writing context. I won $50, a T-shirt, and an honorable mention for my article, “The Overworked Rookie”.

I never appreciated “work-life balance” when I worked as a MSL, because work was my life. The very first time when I seriously thought about what work-life balance meant to me was shortly after September 11, 2001. Two people from my husband’s work site were in one of the planes that hit the NYC Twin Towers. The aerospace industry imploded along with various other industries.

I resumed traveling extensively as a MSL shortly thereafter, when my husband’s company announced over 7000 layoffs (the company laid off over 30,000 people in total). Week after week, my husband saw his coworkers packing their personal items and leaving the office and he wondered about his turn. During this time I stayed overnight at hotels and traveled – it was MSL business as usual.

One evening before a company dinner, I called my husband to say hello. He told me who got laid off that day and sounded despondent, but he wished me a good evening. After I hung up the phone, I sat in the hotel room and wondered what I was chasing after and what I was really working toward.Then I went to dinner. However, I changed to a MSL position that afforded me less travel, even though I loved the MSL team I was working with and had a great relationship with my boss at my former company.

When I founded the MSL Institute in 2004 I immediately forgot about work-life balance; after all, I was now responsible for my own paychecks! But the same questions that first nagged me in 2001 loomed in the back of my mind: what am I chasing after? What am I working hard toward? When I got busy, those nagging questions got pushed to the background, so I made sure I kept myself busy… really, really busy…. until I became a mother in 2007. Then the questions returned in full force, this time, accompanied by the howling chorus of a newborn who didn’t care about his mother’s existential struggles – he wanted to eat, he wanted to be dry, he wanted to be held – and he wanted it all NOW!

It’s been 9 years, and I still don’t have 100% of the answers to my questions.

But I know this much: whatever I am chasing, wherever I am heading – if or when I do get there, I want to have walked my path in a way that preserved the relationships that matter most in my life, so I can have people I love to share the joy of solving these existential mysteries.

What about you?