More on Work/Life Balance
In 2013, this topic continues to be a source of debate and discussion. It’s not hard to figure out why. In the hey days of the early 2000’s, when the economy was soaring, many high powered Moms, working 60 hours a week, just threw down their laptops and said—“Enough! I can’t take it anymore!” It was just too hard to balance a big job (lawyer, doctor, or business executive) with taking care of two or three young children. They were fried. At that time, there was a lot of media attention given to this group of women that left their jobs to be able to see their children off in the morning, be home when their youngsters came home, and to have more time for themselves. Judith Warner wrote an interesting piece in The New York Times called “The opt-out generation wants back in” (August 7, 2013). It’s a worthwhile read. It’s about the challenges of two big career couples trying to have any kind of balance between work and home. Ten years later, with the economy still in the dumps, many of them want their old jobs back---but they aren’t there anymore. And, while they hoped that time at home would improve their marriages---it didn’t. If there were problems before, there were problems after they stayed home. A significant portion ended up divorced and are now single parents.
The reality then and now is that it’s just plain hard, whether parents have big, medium, or small jobs to put it all together! I think it is especially hard in our darker economic times where so many adults have lost their jobs and there is high unemployment. It has put more stress on families, and pushed many women (or stay at home Dads) to return to the work force or work more hours, even if they don’t want to. I see this where I work too. Even part-time working Moms look tired. They just have too much on their plate to get it all done, and don’t have anything left over at the end of the day. Some of them would like to stay home or work less, but they can’t afford to. Dads look pretty tired too. So what are some solutions?
- Affordable day care would help. That might take some financial burden off of young families. This is important. At a time when companies are cutting back expenses to improve profitability it’s hard to make a business case for putting money into daycare. But if we want the best minds refreshed and at work, we have to do it.
- Enable working parents to work part-time. This can make a big difference. It’s hard on parents when they are penalized for working part-time by their companies. We need to recognize and support the value of having a coherent home life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
- Value family time. As an administrator in a department of a medical group, I always told my staff that their family always came first. I know that might not have been politically correct, but I felt that it was a statement of fact for most everyone, including me. Fortunately, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has made this more feasible for everyone. It’s a great law.
- Make thoughtful choices. There are so many pressures coming from different directions. How important is to have that big house? Do I really need that new car? Is that big screen TV really necessary? What is really important at the end of the day? How can I make sure that what I believe is really important is reflected in my choices? At the end of the day, time and attention for self, children, and partner are more enduring than anything you can buy.
- Have realistic expectations of yourself and your partner. It’s not possible to be superman or superwoman! Recognize that we all have limits! So maybe all the laundry won’t be folded, the dishes wont all be done, or the paperwork of life will pile up on the living room coffee table. Maybe that is less important than playing on the floor with your little one.
What helps you improve your work/life balance? Share your experiences with others!