If one more person uses the phrase ‘work-life balance’ in my presence, I’m going to shove an electronic calendar up their yoo-hoo.

What started out as a plan to lower stress levels has turned into yet another way to nag the lot of us into doing more and more stuff.

The work-life balance obsession started out with a bit of scholarly research into why relatively well-off Western people were so miserable. It turned out we were working too much. The suggested solution was to spend more time doing non-work-related activities.

Simple, huh?

Well, not really. The problem is, we’re not working any less, we’re simply trying to squash more and more into our days. And even more irritating, what we’re told is leisure time is, in reality, an awful bloody lot like work.


There are parties to attend lest you want to be called a workaholic. There are play dates to organise to avoid being labelled a neglectful parent. There’s coffee with vague acquaintances from the office or school or mothers groups that render you a social leper if you don’t turn up. Holidays are status symbols, not a time to rejuvenate.

We tie ourselves up in knots trying to go somewhere unique, do something amazing, and Instagram the crap out of every moment of our trip to show the world just how happy we really are.

This supposed ‘balance’ is a whole new way of judging, nagging and pressuring each other into doing things we’re already too exhausted to do. Whatever happened to simply stopping?

stressedAs technology increasingly invades our lives, it’s almost impossible to not feel obligated to everyone else, all of the time. If the boss is at work on the weekend and sends you an email, you’re expected to read it. Even if you’re not working, Facebook will make sure that you have myriad ‘friends’ asking you to sign petitions, comment on their posts, ‘like’ their statuses and generally keep in touch every waking hour. It’s busy work that gets us nowhere and we’re fooling ourselves into thinking it’s making us better people.

Then there are the besties who insist you catch up with them. You know the ones. You politely tell them you’ve got work to do, or family commitments, or you want to catch up on housework before your kitchen spontaneously sprouts a new and special strain of ebola, and they testily lecture you about ‘taking some time for yourself’.

Of course, they don’t mean that. They mean you should take some time for them.

Sometimes the only way to fit in all the supposedly beneficial social time is to get up even earlier than usual to get everything done. There’s something ludicrous about meeting with a friend who has insisted you need some ‘you’ time when you’ve had to drag yourself out of bed at dawn to fit her in.

bath2As you sit there wearily nodding to her proclamation that you are all the better for coming out, you’re thinking about how much nicer a glass of wine in the bath would have been.

There’s nothing positive about all of this forced social interaction we’ve mistaken for a balanced life. Whatever happened to solitude? Spending a day on your own, even half a day, used to be a perfectly acceptable way of relaxing. Now it means you are a misanthrope.

It’s not just our social groups forcing us to spend more and more time running around in endless circles of supposed happiness. There are plenty of bosses who glibly lecture their employees on wellbeing whilst simultaneously giving them so much work, it’s physically impossible to do it all without finding a loophole in the space-time continuum. These employers aren’t concerned about our health.

They’re giving the appearance of being socially responsible because it helps their corporate image, or because they read somewhere that happy workers are more productive workers. The irony that they are adding to their workers’ stress doesn’t matter to them at all.

And don’t get me started on forced team-building exercises. Spending your weekend being whacked in the arse with paintball pellets isn’t fun, it’s Lord Of The Flies for grown ups.

Worst of all, business has now picked up on how easy it is to exploit the leisure deficit guilt. The endless ‘lifestyle’ articles in magazines and newspapers are not designed to assist you to have a better life, they’re designed to make you feel like you’re doing something wrong.

Those television shows about taking a break and not over-working yourself are funded by tourism boards, hotels and websites flogging everything from massages to abseiling. They want to make a buck out of you, not help you.

It all seems a little bit like bullshit to me. The boss that overworks you and then barrages you with emails about the importance of a healthy lifestyle; the friend who insists you go out with her because it will be ‘good for you’ when what you know would be good for you would be some alone time; the mindless hours spent on social networks; the pressure to ‘do something fabulous’ exhorted by television shows and magazines…none of it is helping us. None of it, in fact, is even about us. It’s about pleasing other people.

Here’s the easiest way to get a work-life balance: listen to yourself. Ignore the media, the internet, your boss, your friends and your family. Figure out on your own what will truly rejuvenate you and then do that.

For me, I feel my most relaxed when I tell everyone else to bugger off.



Corinne’s Secret Diet … Blergh

When Tribes Go to War

Bugger off, Outrage Police

Mum’s the Dirty Word


*Corinne Grant is a stand-up comedian, MC, presenter, writer and broadcaster and has performed both nationally and internationally. In addition to her years on Rove Live and The Glasshouse, she has appeared on everything from Spicks and Specks to Dancing With The Stars to Good News Week. She has co-hosted successful national radio shows, performed countless solo live shows and appeared everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to the Kalgoorlie Arts Centre. Corinne’s first book, Lessons In Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder (Allen and Unwin) was released in September 2010 and went into reprint just months after its release.


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  • Reply March 19, 2013



    I had a colleague once who used to take these crazy two week “holidays” from work to dash off to overseas locations and flop about in heat, humidity, mad traffic and endless negotiating prices and then come back to work cranky and as obstreperous as ever!

    She had the audacity to say that I was completely mad and boring to want to spend my lovely long three week holidays doing very little at home – in the peace and quiet with the occasional two nighter away in a local resort.

    Those three week breaks truly restored my soul and I RESTED and enjoyed just being, rather than trying to any contrived Bucket List with crazy “Experiences” for fear of missing out on something!

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Oh Corinne I LOVE this article. Thank you for saying this. I have had to be very direct with people I hardly know almost bullying me to “come party” and others who say I work too hard but live on welfare and keep asking me for money, (I am a strong believer in welfare assistance but don’t keep telling me I work too hard), others who can’t believe I’ve never tried bungy jumping, so many people who know how my life could be so much better but haven’t worked theirs out yet. I’ve shifted to a remote location and catch up with who I wish to when it suits me (and suits them with no pressure from me). I’ve had to claim my right to be a BEING and not a frantic DOING. Sadly in this “information age” it seems best to ignore the external cacophony and listen to oneself.

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    Jennifer Forest

    Hear, hear! What a great article – we make the mistake that rushing around from one engagement to the next is …like ….fun! And don’t forget we are then supposed to post photos to facebook etc of our fabulous weekend at the beach too! Time to stop and rest. I find that after I’ve had some peace and quiet I’m ready to get back to work. I also find the quiet also gives me my best ideas for work too!

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    Sly Place

    You are a wise, wise woman Corinne.

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Amen to that and then some. I know someone who went on a girl’s botox weekend…WTF? That was meant to be relaxing girl time. Like having needles full of poison shoved into your face is good “Me Time”. I just don’t get it.

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    I switch off all electronic devices the minute I walk through the door at the end of the day. That way you cant feel bad when your not tuned into to everyones else’s nagging. Its not hard to use the “off” button. Cheers to your article and the wine/bath combo!!

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    Maureen P.

    Enjoyed the piece very much, Corrine. I agree wholeheartedly. Still laughing at the girls Botox weekend, Jennine!

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    If one more person tells me I need to ‘get out’ for some ‘me’ time, I might puke. As a SAHM with no family around, it’s the most common phrase I hear. Yes, I need some time…but my way, not yours! Well said Corinne.

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Touched a nerve with me this one Corrine. All too true. We’ve become such slaves to expectations and other’s perceptions of ourselves, we’ve lost focus. I’m probably the only one left on planet earth without a Facebook account. Don’t want one, while it’s a great space to catch up with friends & family o/s, all this ‘oh I’m having such a wonderful life with a glass of wine in my hand’ projection to all & sundry I find contrived. We need more time away from electronic or digital gadgets. They’ve become a crutch for entertainment. Give me a hammock, a crisp cider & a good book anyday!

    • Reply March 19, 2013

      Maureen P.

      No, Pixie, I don’t have one either…or an iPhone, or an iPad…

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Well done Corrine, my favourite thing to do is to tell everyone to bugger off too! Great piece!

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    You nailed it Corinne, great piece.
    The stupid thing about even the phrase ‘work/life balance’ is that it suggests there is work OR life!
    NO, work is just a small part of LIFE.
    I work from home so have plenty of me time sewing and listening to the radio. Bliss! I take two hour lunch breaks to watch a movie while I do a bit of hand sewing or finishing a dress. I pick up the kids or have indepth chats with my husband about politics and religion at a cafe in town. It is all life, not separate work, leisure or me time. All this trying to separate and categorise is doing none of us any favours. Just live and enjoy it. And if work is taking over, leave!

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Hit the nail on the head with this. Also, mix this with opting out of facebook = more time

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Excellent read and spot on observation. We are becoming deranged by all this bombardment and interfering in our daily lives and the time for peace so that we can hear our own thoughts or just hear nothing are rare indeed. “Silence is Golden”.

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    Great Responses, if Only I had Time to Read them All. Thanks Corinne.

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    great article Corinne. Different horses for courses. One of my singe, childless friend often carps on about needing “me time” in tragically exhausted tones. When it is suggested to my sister of three who also works full time in a demanding job and is on assorted school committees that she should really take some “me time” she says…but doing things with the kids IS my me time. I on the other hand fancy the bath, glass of shiraz and Peter Robinson. Or Ian Rankin. 🙂

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    The Huntress

    You’ve got it in one again, Corinne. Too much pressure to be seen having it all doing stuff and documenting it. I could say so much on this, but I won’t. I’ll just nod vigourously.

  • Reply March 20, 2013


    That phrase “shove it up your jumper” must have come from some where?

  • Reply March 22, 2013


    Sadly, sadly true. Its been so long I don’t think I’m capable of actually stopping for even an hour. Even when I get the opportunity I get quickly bored and have to get up and do something instead. I’m so conditioned to keep going I can’t stop now.
    To avoid taking the ultimate solution, the full stop, I’ve decided to take all my down time in the last 20 or so years of my life traveling around Australia at my own speed and alone (I’m an Aspie – so being alone is more natural). Its finally given me something I can look forward to!

  • Reply March 25, 2013


    EXACTLY, Corinne, exactly! I’m often made to feel like the grumpy grouch because I just can’t be bothered to ‘socialise’ but I honestly love my own company. I don’t feel the need to have to DO something to justify my time. I love spending holidays at home and time with friends shouldn’t be stressful or competitive. Why does everyone look at me funny when I say I’m perfectly happy at home and that I don’t need an exotic holiday in a third world country to feel like “I’ve been somewhere”?!


  • Reply March 26, 2013

    Callie g

    All this forced socializing and fake relaxation is the reason why at the age of 50;why 50 do you ask?, 50 being, apparently; the official age where it becomes socially acceptable to stop caring what other people think of you; this is when so many of us become Grumpy old women, thus spending most of our leisure hours avoiding spending our leisure hours with other people, and devoting our time to as much chocolate, white wine and television as we see fit as we are no longer obliged to care what other people think of us. The great thing about this true coming of age is that others expect you to become grumpy as you get older and therefore are happy to spend their time avoiding spending time with you. The social invites dwindle, the group of friends shrinks and you blissfully enjoy all that uninterrupted “me” time to catch up on movies, books , Sunday crosswords and schlepping around in your daggiest PJ’s. Phone calls go unanswered, you hide when someone knocks at the door and you contemplate the pro’s of becoming a Crazy Cat Lady. Women have so many work, social and family pressures that spending time ALONE is the one thing that we miss out on, time to just BE and bugger what anyone else wants from us, at least until the alarm goes off on Monday morning.

  • Reply March 26, 2013


    I often feel the need to apologise for the fact that my idea of downtime is actually being quiet at home. I’m not doing nothing – here I go again justifying it – I’m doing stuff but it’s stuff I chooose to do in a no pressure environment, to my own schedule. i can’t stand the idea of having to be ON all the time. It’s exhausting.

  • Reply March 26, 2013

    Rick Facer


    couldn’t agree with you more, i travel a lot for work as you probably do. Now that travel is work and not fun I simply couldn’t be arsed going to visit family or going away on holidays. My idea of a holiday is sleeping till noon, walking around in your pyjamas till dinner and never leaving the house. Might add I loved your performance and commentary on Q and A, you are as fire tounged and witty as you are gorgeous. lots of luck with the ‘relaxation’, my suggestion smash the alarm clock and send the kids to a concentration camp (see school camp)

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