How often do you hear about the importance of finding balance in your life? And what exactly does that mean?
We hear “experts” talk about the secret to achieving the perfect work/life balance as though there’s a “magic formula” hidden in some secret cave that some people have access to but most of us are struggling to grasp.
What if I told you that secret doesn’t exist.
Take Barbara Walters for example, a highly successful career woman. In Dr. Lafair’s article, “Does Being Gutsy Activate Being Guilty,” Walters admits there is a tricky balance between work and family. As a Gutsy woman, Walters put it succinctly when she said “Just do not expect balance.”
Obviously if you place too much emphasis on family, your work suffers, and if your work takes priority your family suffers.
It’s almost as if the work/life balance can only be achieved once you take work out of the equation, or raising a family out of the equation. Am I oversimplifying? Perhaps, but why are we so focused on defining everything and questioning whether our work/life balance conforms to the magic formula?
I think the problem stems from guilt, especially the guilt women express when they have a full-time job and are raising a family. A friend of mine has three children and a very successful career. I envied the fact that she always seemed in control of her work and her kids’ activities until one day she confessed, “I feel like a failure as a wife, a mother and at my job. I can never give 100% of myself to any of my roles.”
Women are experts at feeling guilt, why is that?
Dr. Lafair, the author of Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success brings up the issue of women and guilt and suggests that women have an intimate relationship with guilt.
“It is harder for us to compartmentalize emotions and thus we worry about how our behavior impacts family, friends, community and with the worry comes self-doubt.”
So I asked my husband, “Do men feel the same guilt as women when it comes to balancing work and family?” His response:
“Men feel it too, but the expectation is different.”
Some of you may disagree with his statement, but even today, where women are often the major bread-winners, most men still feel a sense of wanting to provide for their family. What do you think?
Some men manage to step out of their “crazy” corporate life when they realize their whole life revolves around work, and they rarely see their kids. Take Nigel Marsh for example. In a previous post I wrote about his views on How to Achieve the Perfect Work/Life Balance. He quit his high pressured corporate job in an advertising agency to stay home with four young children.
I think when we feel overwhelmed we realize that we’ve lost that sense of balance which is a personal thing, not a one-size fits all magical formula. I also believe that Barbara Walters suggestion to “Just do not expect balance,” is quite liberating especially for us women who have a tendency to feel guilty.
I’d love to hear your thoughts from both women and men on this topic.