Thoughts on Work-Life “Balance”

As my regular readers know, we spend a great deal of time on my blog talking about work-life “balance.” Yesterday afternoon at 5:30pm eastern, I appeared on Huffington Post LIVE as part of a round-table discussion about work-life “balance.”

Screen grab of me running my mouth on HufffPost Live yesterday

The irony of having to go on TV to talk about the difficulties with balancing work and life — at the worst possible time of day for any parent – DINNER TIME – wasn’t lost on me. And as anyone could have guessed, it wasn’t lost on my extremely grumpy and tired four-year-old. Despite asking her fav teenage babysitter to come over for an hour so I could prepare (read: actually brush my hair and put on some make up) and participate in this interview without screaming, fighting children – it didn’t work out that way. Seconds before the segment was supposed to start, my four-year old’s screams were bouncing through the house and she quickly surmised that I was still home and the only human being on the planet who could fulfill her needs, which obviously had to be fulfilled immediately, were none other than MOMMY.

Our sweet babysitter looked so stressed and worried because she knew her whole reason for being there was well – so that this wouldn’t happen – but isn’t this Murphy’s Law for Parents? I decided instead of being stressed out about it and fretting and worrying that everyone would hear her crying by the door, I just brought her in and put her on my lap. I figured, if they want to have a conversation about work-life balance – well here it is, right?

My little one was actually pretty good and sat quietly through most of the 30 minute segment (sporadically asking me to stop talking to the computer and put on her Cinderella tattoo), meanwhile I was receiving texts from friends who were cracking up that she was totally photobombing the segment. As the main expert was talking about the need to create time for yourself and manage the work-life balance, she actually advised people who work from home to just shut their door.

Ummm…….

Right.

At that moment I had to chime in and point out that I do work from home, and I did shut my door, and I also hired my girls’ favorite teenage babysitter to play with them so I could technically work uninterrupted, and yet, surprise – and I showed anyone who was watching my youngest sitting there on my lap. Beyond that point, you could see the top of her head the entire time. Look – the point is this – the best laid plans rarely work out when you have kids and well, work life balance is elusive for all of us, whether you head into an office full-time, you work from home, you work part-time – it is all difficult – and the technology bleed into our lives feeds into that difficulty. Here’s the link again if you want to watch the piece that ran yesterday.

In order to prepare for the interview, aside from knowing that I actually think work-life “balance” is the entirely wrong way to think about it and instead think of it as work-life choices, I put together a list of some of the most recent conversations we’ve had about the topic – to collect my thoughts. If you’re new to my blog or haven’t yet seen some of these, below is a smattering of some of my favorite posts on the subject matter at hand, which frankly is a challenge we all face and something I could talk about all day long. Marissa¬† Mayer has been one of my most favorite working moms to spark healthy debate around the challenges facing all of us.

Just last week, we talked about the stagnating rate of women in the workforce in America as compared to Europeans, in large part because of our failure to offer federally mandated paid paternity leave or wide-scale support of flexible hours for working parents. If you’re unfamiliar with the progressive laws in Europe designed to protect and help parents with young children or how we stack up in comparison, this piece should shed some light on the topic.

Moving on to the next topic: Ahh…Marissa Mayer….how you keep things interesting for us. In case you missed Mayer’s quip about how having a baby was “Easy”, I discussed it….at length…but brought in a friend who is more balanced than moi to counter point some of my points. The biggest question these conversations tend to spark, beyond is it fair to make Mayer the poster woman for working moms in America, is, is it anti-woman to criticize another working mom, or is it productive and helpful?

Next topic – control. Earlier this fall, a high powered female attorney at the DC law firm Clifford Chance abruptly quit her job via a memo that, from my perspective, was shrill and dripping in martyrdom, detailing the challenges she faces every day managing a demanding career and two small children. This memo spread like wild fire across the internet and again, sparked endless conversations. I believe all of these things are good and helpful because they continue to bring more attention to this simple fact: balancing work and family is hard as hell and none of us are alone in the struggle. That being said, I approached this particular story with the perspective that too many women try to control everything and fail to remember they have a partner in this daily challenge who can, and should, be participating in making it all possible. So read this piece if you find yourself leaving lists for your husband and managing every single thing in the house hold, along with a job, and usually a chip on your shoulder that your husband doesn’t do anything.

As I’ve mentioned before, I could talk about this all day, and well, have been for years. So instead, because you have other things to do, I offer this link to my reaction to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s now famous piece on Mothers Having It All.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me on my Facebook page, where we have fun and laugh and talk about more than just work-life balance – but somehow the road leads back there even when I’m not looking for it, usually that road includes a child on my lap interrupting my thoughts…..

 

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