This Is the Surprising Reason You Can’t Achieve Work-Life Balance

Sometimes, it feels as though there just aren't enough hours in the day. Between working your socks off, caring for your loved ones, and, well, sleeping, you hardly have time to think. If your work-life balance is a mess, it may have a little something to do with your family history.

workSFIO CRACHO/ShutterstockThere are only so many hours in a day. That’s a fact that we can never change. So, when you feel as though you just don’t have time for your work, your social life, and your family, it can be a major stress. In truth, many of us really do struggle when it comes to striking a work-life balance, but why is that?

Well, that’s just the question that a recent piece of research attempted to answer. A study carried out by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, took a deep dive to see what’s behind the way that we deal with life and work constraints and came up with some rather unexpected results.

While many of us assume that our work-life approach is directly linked to psychology or our unique personality traits, that may not be the full story. In fact, the study found that this particular issue has more to do with our childhoods than we previously thought.

“We are not blank slates when we join the workforce—many of our attitudes are already deeply ingrained from childhood,” explained the study’s co-author, Ioana Lupu, PhD.

The idea is that the way we feel about work and how we deal with it may be a notion that’s formed in our earliest childhood years. Since much of our adult behavior is ‘learned’ from watching our moms and dads when we’re young, it stands to reason that our perspective on how to balance our lives is much the same.

The Reasearch

As part of the study, the researchers interviewed 78 employees from both legal and accounting firms to understand how they balanced both work and their personal lives. The findings suggested that their upbringings, i.e. the way their parents approached work, ultimately informed the way that they dealt with this issue as adults.

For example, men who came from “traditional” family backgrounds, in which the father worked and the mother did not found it easy to balance work and family. What’s more, these men were unaffected by any guilt that usually comes alongside the ever-growing constraints of having a family and a career at the same time.

Women, on the other hand, found it much harder to deal with this particular issue, perhaps due to the rapid change gender-specific roles have had in recent years. According to the research, those who’d been raised by stay-at-home moms often felt conflicted about working and not being able to spend enough time with their family. (Here are things you should never say to a working mom.)

The takeaway is simple—the roles our parents played in our households when we were growing up, may have left an imprint on all of us. In short, their actions could be playing a subconscious role in the work-life decisions we all make as adults. However, simply by being aware of this fact, we can change the way we view the work-life balance and thrive in both areas.

“If individuals are to reach their full potential, they have to be aware of how the person that they are has been shaped through previous socialization and how their own work [and] family decisions further reproduce the structures constraining these decisions,” concluded Dr. Lupu.

Feeling burntout on the work front? Here are the jobs with the best work-life balance.

Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger is a creative feature writer, with a flair for personal and lifestyle pieces. Her word has been seen in a number of regional publications in the UK. She has a knack for making any subject engaging and interesting and is able to promote her work via social media effectively.