Jack Welch might be a bull. He might be a really aggressive and unpleasant person. But in my opinion, he nailed it when he said there is no such thing as work-life balance, there is work-life choices. I think we should all ban together and eliminate this cultural concept about work-life balance because the only people who might actually believe it exists are young women graduating from college and evaluating their future careers, meanwhile buying into romanticized notions that they can be an amazing wife, a fully present parent and successfully shatter the glass ceiling.
After reading the WSJ Juggle’s column about Carol Bartz and Sallie Krawcheck, two of the most powerful female executives in our country, losing their jobs, I immediately watched this candid video with Bartz talking about the myth of work-life balance. The common thread is the advice of taking a wide-angle lens view of your whole life and realizing work and family life ebb and flow over time. I really appreciate that perspective.
Reading that these executives have three children at home and no one would mention it if they were men doesn’t bother me because the truth is, kind of like when we all wonder how much weight a pregnant friend has gained, we wonder how in the world these women have made it to the top and raised three children. We wonder because we are reflecting this back on ourselves. Will I gain as much or as little weight? Can I have so many children and still make it to the top, oh, and still be a totally awesome mom? I think these are realistic questions to ask because we are trying to figure it out ourselves. And what they are saying is, no different from the men, they missed pivotal moments in their children’s lives but they rose to the top of their profession.
I think what they are also saying is there needs to not be guilt because we are in charge of our decisions when we have a choice between work and home. A woman who stays home full-time has sacrificed her career, her income and what she built to that point, professionally, to be with her kids full-time. She makes this decision realizing that eventually these children will be in school all day and then she will be faced with a painful and difficult question – now what? Unfortunately that time of all kids in school seems like an eternity for many when they choose to stay home but in reality, it arrives lightning fast. A woman who works full-time is needed in the workforce, is paving the way for future girls and fulfilling her own ambition and drive, but she is missing out on time and experiences with her children. It is what it is. Both of these choices are vastly different and each present challenges and sacrifices to the women. I would argue that no decision is made lightly and without doubt along the way.
So what it goes back to is guilt. I’ve long said that mommy guilt is stupid. Own your choice, be proud of your decision and be realistic about what it means. And also- be realistic about if you have a choice because I’ve found that the women who say “I have a choice but I still chose this path” are the ones without guilt.
What do you think?