PBS NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just

There may not be perfect work-life balance … and that’s OK by me

I really love my job. Since last year, I’ve been privileged to work as the executive producer of the PBS NewsHour. It’s a pretty great gig. I can say that for most of my nearly 30-year career in journalism, I’ve enjoyed coming to work. Journalism is all I’ve ever wanted to do and I am sure that even if my career had gone in another direction, I would be a news junkie. I would still be on Twitter before dawn. But if news were only my hobby, I would miss all of the other things I love about my job, including the opportunity to work alongside such smart and stimulating people, the adrenaline rush as a deadline approaches, even the gallows humor of the newsroom.

Some people love those vacations where you unplug your devices and have no access to the news or the Internet. I can tolerate that, and even appreciate it … for about three days. Then I start to itch. I miss the news and need to know what is going on. And by about day seven, I miss the newsroom too.

Don’t get me wrong — every job has its drudgery and frustrations. Do you think President Obama wants to do every one of those photo opportunities? Does Serena Williams ever think, if I see another little green fuzzy ball I’ll scream? Does Bruce Springsteen sigh, “’Thunder Road,’ again?” I wouldn’t mind it if the weekends could be longer, the vacations closer together. But the truth is, my work-life balance tilts pretty hard toward work. I know we are supposed to fight that, and strive for more balance, but what is the right balance? For some of us, who are lucky enough to love what we do, that balance may be out of whack by other people’s standards, and I don’t think we should have to apologize for it.

work-life-balance-badgeOf course, I love spending time away from work with my family and my friends. Time with my sons is precious, especially as they get older and have so many of their own interests and obligations. Our family Friday night dinners at our favorite neighborhood restaurant is as close to a religious ritual as we often get. I can also feel fairly spiritual about my favorite spinning class, or a long walk with a close friend, or a catching up on a phone call with out-of-town besties, even downtime bingeing on Netflix all by myself. It’s all incredibly important time. But even as I enjoy, I know that in part I do all of those things, and savor them, because they recharge my batteries and enable me to go back to the job I love, refreshed and energetic. So, do I live to work? Or work to live?

I must admit to being somewhat irked by this concept of finding work-life balance, as if there is a right balance and a wrong one. I put it in the same bucket as those lectures about the importance of sitting down to dinner with your kids every night. Somehow such blanket statements seem designed to make many of us feel inadequate, especially those of us who are working parents and always feeling torn.

If you love what you do, why apologize for the imbalance? Find the balance that is right for you. And don’t take it from me, take it from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten, who has never steered me wrong on any of life’s other important topics, like how to make a simple vinaigrette or roast a Brussel sprout properly. She said in an interview recently that to find success in work, you should pick something that you find fun. And if you truly find fun in your work, you’ve found a great balance right there.