Work-Life Balance: Is it a Unicorn?

Jingchan Hu
Careers Blog
| 7/25/2019

As a young mother of two young boys, I’ve struggled for the ever-elusive work-life balance. As a professional woman working in the finance industry, still a somewhat male-dominated world, it’s hard sometimes to see the path forward. I’m lucky to work in a firm where one third of our partnership is comprised of women, some of whom are mothers with their own young kids, who are real life role models for me.

The struggle with work-life balance is not something that only affects women and those with families, but also a much larger demographic. We are experiencing a shift in our work force; more and more of the working population are prioritizing the “life” aspect of the work-life balance equation, regardless of their own family situation.

How do we find that coveted work-life balance and what exactly does it mean?

I used to look around at my role models and wonder, “How do they do it?” But I’ve recently experienced an “aha” moment realizing that the better question is, “How do I do it?”

Balance does not mean all elements of your life are equal because life is very situational. The key to finding work-life balance is accepting that there is not one correct proportion. Every individual’s life circumstances are different.

For me, work-life balance means having a fulfilling family life, a rewarding career, and a personal identity – Jin, the individual.

Family Balance

I can’t even remember what life was like before our little family came to be. My husband has been through nearly 15 busy seasons with me working as a tax accountant and he knows that in March and April, my presence at home will be scarce. 

I would be lying if I said it’s been a breeze. Before we had kids, he easily managed it because he knew what to expect and managed that expectation for one individual. Since our little ones joined our family, there have been ups and downs. We’ve had more arguments than I can count about the importance of my being there for the kids in their formative years. The arguments, almost always, centred on me prioritizing my work because I’m spending less than an hour a day with my family for at least two months of the year during busy season. 

I've come to realize that I need to set boundaries and limitations and only I can manage my time, because no one else will do it for me.
Over the last few years, I’ve made substantial changes to how I manage busy season. It is important that my family (especially my kids) and I spend quality time together, regardless of how busy I am at work. During busy season, I now make sure I am home for dinner at least three nights a week and plan my work schedule around that.

Career Balance

I am a working mother. I need the intellectual challenges of my work, the time I get to spend with my colleagues, the feeling of helping my clients achieve their goals and objectives. I’ve previously struggled with saying “no” because it’s hard to turn down work, since every file adds to our experience. But it’s also made me feel overwhelmed and burnt out. I’ve come to realize that I need to set boundaries and limitations and only I can manage my time, because no one else will do it for me. I’ve realized that only when I make decisions about how I choose to spend my time can I find true contentment in those choices. Everything in life is about choices and since taking control of making those choices, I’ve found my peace. I am in the best place I’ve ever been.

Personal Balance

I started writing this blog post on my way home from spending the last week of June at Alpha Omicron Pi’s biennial Convention in sunny Florida. Yes, shocking. With Canadian corporate tax deadlines near, how does a tax accountant get away from the office at the end of June? I work hard leading up to the time off to make sure I get as much of my work done as I can and I’m lucky to have supportive colleagues who help me out during my absence. While I’m away, I also work as much as I’m able to during my limited down times because I recognize that being able to get away at the end of June in my chosen profession is a privilege. Everyone who knows me well, personally and professionally, knows that AOII plays an important role in my life and is part of my identity. Membership in AOII has afforded me opportunities for leadership and service, provided a plethora of opportunities for my own personal development, and has helped me develop a unique and personal identity. People are often surprised, shocked really, when I tell them that I used to be quiet and timid. I truly would not be who I am today without the experiences AOII has provided me. It has given me my individual identity.

I’m not sharing my personal story and journey to finding my work-life balance because I think this is the only way to do it. I’m sharing my story in the hopes of inspiring you to discover your own personal path to discovering your work-life balance.

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Jingchan Hu
Partner, Tax
Jingchan Hu Professional Corporation