“But there were planes to catch … and bills to pay … He learned to walk while I was away.” — “Cat’s in the Cradle,” as performed by Harry Chapin

The term “work-life balance” is a buzzword in the investment advisory industry and probably in many other professions, too. Managing someone’s life savings and planning for a client’s financial future is a huge responsibility. Like many advisors, I take work-related concerns home with me every evening. I care deeply about our clients and want only good things for them.

Achieving a work-life balance is certainly a laudable goal. It seems I read a new approach each month in financial periodicals on how best to achieve it. The gist of most of these well-intended tomes is that we must preciously guard our lives away from the office, lest we become overstressed in our work.

The truth, though, for many people, is that a perfect work-life balance is unattainable. We are pulled in so many different directions each day that it is nearly impossible to get to everything. So when conflicts arise between work and personal pursuits, work must come first. This is not to say we should ignore our families or our personal lives, but we have a commitment to get the job done, whatever it takes. People are depending on us. People pay us to perform certain duties. This is especially true for anyone who runs their own business.

In my experience, the life period that is the most challenging is when we have children in elementary and secondary school. We’re trying to build our career, serve as an exemplary professional, network and grow our business, take our son to the dentist and our daughter to soccer practice, often all at the same time.

But if we ignore our professional responsibilities, there won’t be any money to pay the dentist and we won’t be able to afford our daughter’s soccer uniform. We should probably realize that we’re going to miss some of our children’s plays, Little League games, concerts, Cub Scout meetings, and recitals. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we’re awful parents if we’re not present at everything our child participates in.

There are those among us whose careers and lifestyles allow them to coach our children’s teams and organize car pools and snacks. Our kids are the beneficiaries of their efforts, and I always tried to thank them sincerely, and to contribute in any way that I could to any organization, club or team in which my children were involved. But not everyone can spend that much time, especially during working hours, on their children’s activities.

These words are being penned after office hours. Perhaps you’re reading them outside the office as well.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.