The topic of work/life balance is something that has been around for years, and every time it’s brought up, it doesn’t seem like this practice has gotten any closer to being achievable, does it? With Father’s Day approaching, we asked Gene Glaeser and Amber Maenius, a father/daughter duo, to share how they both came to the realization that trying to find balance is a lofty goal we should replace with a new practice of finding ways to blend.
Don’t have time to read this blog? Listen to it below!
Tell our readers a little about yourselves.
Gene: As the founder of Reconsider Christ, I spend my time creating content to engage people in a conversation about Christ. Prior to this, I spent twenty-five years as a software sales executive working with the Telco, P&C Insurance, High-tech and Media industries. Before and during my sales career, I served for twenty-six years as a Senior Pastor at several churches.
Both careers challenged my efforts to lead a balanced life. A pastor’s role can easily turn into a 24/7 obsession as people will take all you have to give. In sales, your work demands extensive travel. And when you are traveling, you are working long hours on last-minute prep and then racing to the next city and meeting.
To survive both careers, I threw away the idea of balance and found blending. And I want you to discover the same.
In the midst of all this, Kaye and I have been married forty-two years and are blessed by our daughter Amber, our son Jordan, their spouses and our five grandchildren.
Amber: After graduating college with a business degree, I found myself navigating unknown territory in the real world. Luckily, I landed in an industry-leading healthcare organization with strong leadership and benefited exponentially from all I learned there. During that time, I established two new departments and discovered my love for developing others and their gift of leadership. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to co-author a professional development program and coach our leaders internally through mentoring relationships, a weekly podcast, and regular group training sessions.
Along the way, I have also launched a retail business and been involved in ministry. These experiences led to my desire to write for and coach people who are looking to integrate their lives and achieve the meaning they have longed for. My hope is that Christians in the workplace understand their value and purpose to bring flourishing to their organization and everyone they encounter.
I also have the privilege of raising three little ones with my husband Brandon in the great state of Texas.
Where did your discussion around “blend vs. balance” originate?
Amber: As soon as my first baby was born! I knew I wanted to go back to work full time after having my son, but when the time came, I panicked. I honestly felt like I was no longer able to give 100% to either work or family while trying my best to juggle the two during those early stages of motherhood, and I became incredibly frustrated.
I was irritated when I needed to leave early or stay late at work. I was annoyed when people wanted to chat, and I couldn’t be as productive as I wanted in order to get home at reasonable times. I was constantly stressed about missing out with my child and compared myself ruthlessly to other moms.
Something finally clicked when I had the privilege of moderating a panel on professional growth for my company’s leadership development program. Four executives sat in front of me that day and discussed their favorite leadership resources, personal experiences of navigating challenges in their careers, and the idea of work/life balance.
Three of the four participants said they didn’t have it pegged yet, then our CEO, who is a woman and mom of three spoke up and gave language to what I had long suspected. She began with, “Work/life balance is a farce.” She went on to describe the image of those four-pronged teeter totters on the playground that kids bounce around on. They are impossible to balance and would be totally boring and pointless if they actually ever did.
What if those toys are exactly like our life—even if we achieved a perfect balance between all the things we juggle, wouldn’t we just be mediocre at everything? Maybe even irrelevant and bored? At this point, I was sold; she was exactly right!
I realized from that conversation that when you are passionate about a mission and know why you do what you do, then it’s not ‘either/or.’ Instead, you find ways to invite your family into your work and begin integrating or blending your life instead of compartmentalizing. This approach freed me from the frustration I had been haunted by.
Gene: I decided in my 40s that trying to achieve balance was a farce, as I was working global sales in high-tech, trying to parent a high schooler, middle schooler, lead a Bible study group, and carve out some time to spend with my wonderful wife.
My life was constantly out of balance. I would have to spend three weeks in Europe and then come home and re-enter our family life without disrupting all that was negotiated while I was away. I would feel burdened to get caught up on household chores, working late into the night returning emails and running global conference calls, while scurrying to volleyball, soccer, and basketball tournaments.
I was a walking zombie fueled by the anxiety of not accomplishing everything and feeling guilty that I couldn’t balance my life!
That’s when I realized balance is a lie—it is not achievable. Late one night on a plane, I made myself write down the only thing important to me. My conclusion? Love God and love others. I know it sounds cliché but this thought released me from balance hell. I now had one focus, one goal.
Suddenly, when I was with Kaye, it was to focus on honoring her. Time with the kids meant talking about what was happening at the moment and translating the moment into a deeper understanding about Christ. When taking the Chunnel back and forth between London and Paris for weeks at a time, my work reflected my commitment to loving God and loving others.
So, I began to think of blending. No matter my point in time, I was achieving the most important goal of all. I could rest in the fact that when I was away from my family for three weeks, the time I had invested in them would carry us through and the future time together would enrich our relationships further.
In essence, I gave my anxiety and desire to do everything right at the same time over to God and started learning to trust that where I found myself and what I did each day was just right. My efforts were just right as I strove to love God and love others. All my effort blended together over time to build the relationships and success I desired.
Combined Summary: Balance is bull!
The idea of balance is something we all would love in every area of our lives, not just at work. Do you believe the practice of blending over balancing applies to the personal and spiritual side of our lives, too? What does that possibly look like?
Amber: Most definitely! As a Christian, I find it necessary for my relationship with Jesus to impact every area of my life. Obviously, I fail at that, a lot! But my identity as a beloved child of God, mission, work ethic and love for others must blend into each decision and interaction I have, no matter the context. When I have tried to compartmentalize my life, it felt much more complicated.
Experience has taught me that the most authentic and often most effective people are the ones who see their primary mission to build the kingdom of God and surrender whatever that might look like to Him. Their lives are integrated and purposeful. It’s like they’re ‘killing two (or more) birds with one stone,’ for lack of a better metaphor, by letting their faith, work, family and hobbies all collide. I think this looks like having a standard set of guiding principles or values that propel you in every endeavor.
Gene: We only have one life, not two or three. I do not have a work life, a personal life, and a spiritual life; I just have a child of God life. I do not try to balance my spiritual and work lives because they are one in the same. If I am balancing anything, it is to reduce the amount of time I do not act like I love God and others into more time where my actions say I love God and others.
That is the mindset for blending. When at work, I am fully engaged confident that the effort shows love for God and others. I have learned to allow God to guide my family and not obsess over them while I am at work.
When I am with my family, I am full engaged confident that my actions show them the most important goal in my life is to love God and then love them. Meanwhile, I don’t obsess about work or undone events as God is in control.
When I am with God and Christ in quiet moments, I am fully engaged to draw upon the power and love of our relationship. To gain wisdom as I listen to the words I read in the Bible, to speak plainly about the anxieties on my heart and my fears of the future. To fill my obsessions with the grace of God.
I am blended as everything, everywhere, everyday focuses on loving God and loving others.
Combined Summary: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Father’s Day is this Sunday, so Amber, we’d love to hear about a situation where you remember your dad exemplifying “blend over balance” well.
Amber: For a little over a decade, my dad held a full-time executive role in sales and planted a church in the community where my parents live. There is absolutely no way that season of life could have felt balanced. He would study in hotel rooms and write sermons on planes, visit us and his grandbabies, enjoy family trips, host groups in his home, etc.
I am sure it was not perfect, but I know the reason he was successful at blending as much as he did during that season was that he had a singular goal: to love God and love others. I know that building God’s kingdom is his priority, and he tried to do that every minute, no matter what was before him.
Sometimes, I think he just gets a kick out of breaking the rules and people’s expectations, but the synergy in his life during those years energized him to accomplish it all. I am incredibly thankful I had a front-row seat as it provided me a new framework for reimagining what life can look like when you fully lean into the gifts God has given you to impact the world for good.
Gene: The best gift of Father’s Day is the loving daughter and son with which God has blessed me. Oh, and the five grandkids.
Combined Summary: People will notice when you stop balancing everything.
Do either of you have any personal stories of having to choose blending over balancing in your personal or spiritual life?
Amber: Looking back on my life, I observed both of my parents make huge pivots in their work to accommodate different seasons our family went through. One of those is particularly memorable. When I was in elementary, my dad resigned from being a full-time pastor and started from scratch in business. So, out of necessity, my mom went from being a stay-at-home mom to going back to work, even traveling during the week, to make up the difference.
I did not think too much of those transitions at the time, but as an adult, they have given me permission to think creatively about how to best handle all the facets of who I want to be, and the changes life throws at us.
Most recently, the pandemic threw a big hitch in my plans, like everyone else. I found myself with significantly less work and more family time—totally unbalanced. Having the whole family at home has meant that some of my personal business goals will take longer to meet. But I set out early to be intentional about making the most of this unprecedented time.
My hope is that when the tide shifts, I am ready to run with even more purpose, joy, and clarity than I would have had without this time. As I draw all the things that matter most to me in more closely, I have found that a well-blended life is often more like a swivel than the teeter totter I mentioned earlier.
There are times when we lean more heavily in one direction for a while, but as we continue to stay connected around the core of who we are or our guiding values, our direction and priorities in life are consistent, even while our focus shifts.
Gene: I choose blending over balancing due to my many failures at balancing. For example, I was thrown out of the gym at one of Amber’s basketball games and to stay ‘balanced,’ I was thrown out of the gym at one (maybe two) of Jordan’s basketball games.
I have responded harshly to Kaye simply because I was tense about work and to stay ‘balanced,’ I talked harshly with employees because I was tense on how I treated Kaye.
I can go on and on about my many failures at loving God and loving others. Most of them boil down to focusing on my list to achieve the success I wanted for me, which drove me to ungodly behavior that manifested itself at work and with family and friends.
I can’t do everything well. And yet, through the grace and power of Christ, I can love God and others well.
Combined Summary: Life is always changing, not allowing for balance. Your priority for the kingdom of God must always be the focus.
What encouragement would you give to a woman in the workforce who is trying to keep all her plates spinning?
Amber: I would tell her it’s OK to let them drop and embrace a life that’s out of balance!
Even after hearing and believing that balance was fleeting, as a life-long achiever and people pleaser, I had never taken the time to fully consider what needed to change in my own life to sustain me over the long-haul.
Right before the pandemic, I realized my relationships and health were suffering due to the pace I was keeping. Something had to give, so I made the incredibly tough decision to resign from a job I loved. Taking a pause from work felt vulnerable, humbling, and, honestly, scary, but I knew it was necessary.
The process of resetting and rebuilding a more integrated life has been the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. But I don’t recommend that path for everyone and you don’t have to get to that point!
The good news is that you have the opportunity right now to reimagine how you might integrate your multi-faceted life around your highest values to ensure your long-term fulfillment and success. Find a trusted friend or mentor to brainstorm with and prayerfully consider what that might look like. I’m cheering for you!
Gene: I have seven steps:
- Step 1 – Schedule a day off from everything.
- Step 2 – Go to a beautiful place of nature and get comfortable.
- Step 3 – Envision every plate you are spinning in your life.
- Step 4 – As graphically as possible in your mind, let everyone of them drop to the floor and shatter. Watch the family plate shatter, the marriage plate shatter, the work plate shatter and the health plate shatter along with all the others.
- Step 5 – Pray for the courage to form only one plate engraved with “love God and love others.” And ask God to give you the grace and power to keep that one plate spinning.
- Step 6 – Envision a day in your life, where you walk through all the competing priorities, not with anxiety, but peace, for at every moment you are spinning the one plate which blends your life.
- Step 7 – Go home and live your blended life.
Combined Summary: In a struggle to live a balanced life, most of the plates will eventually fall and shatter. Stop the futility. Be proactive. Stop spinning plates and turn on the blender.
I have walked through miserable, embarrassing failure and great success. Like you, I have suffered deep emotional pain and unbelievable joy. Through it all I was determined to figure out my identity – “Who am I?” Am I a husband? Am I a parent? Am I a successful business person? Am I a failure? Am I insignificant?
After much trial and error, I discovered I am a follower of Christ. I spent years chipping away at the dogma, traditions, misinformation, culture, disappointment and confusion to discover the essence of Christ.
I encourage you to join me on the continuing search for the Christ, whose wisdom and human example lead us to the truths about who we are.
Amber Maenius loves to write for, and coach people looking to integrate their lives and achieve the meaning they have longed for. She lives near Dallas with her husband Brandon and three kids.
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