Work/life balance?

Wed, December 13, 2006

Uncategorized


I hesitated to write this post, but something has been gnawing at me, so here goes.

I read a profile in a local publication this week that focused on a woman law firm partner and mother of two, who recently adopted her third child.

Nothing out of the ordinary in that scenario, especially to me, since, as a mother by adoption, I tend to read a lot on that topic anyway.

The thing that I couldn’t fathom, though, was this — this mom proudly talked about the fact that when her baby contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized, the she was on the phone from the hospital room as she laid in bed with her daughter, negotiating a business deal.

This woman’s photo beamed with happiness and pride from the article as if to say, “See, I have it all and so can you!”

As someone who never expected to give up my full-time career once I became a mother, I am totally supportive and on board with trying to find a work/life balance that works for each individual and that allows parents to have careers and meaningful family time. Clearly, we all have to make choices that we feel work best for ourselves and our children, and there’s no one solution that fits each household.

But I started wondering — is this lifestyle actually a choice or an example of someone who can’t draw appropriate boundaries or doesn’t like to delegate?

Was this a situation where she was happy that she was wheeling and dealing while her ill child slept next to her? Or was this a case where someone felt that their position would be in jeopardy if they said, ‘no’?

If a successful woman can’t draw a line for her employer (or, more accurately, her partners) between a family emergency and the office, then what hope is there for the rest of us to ever find a true balance in our day-to-day lives where crises are more about getting to the school pick-up line on time or finishing nightly homework and still getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour?

I know I’m going to take some heat for this one, but I hope that today’s version of success in the workplace, for any parent, doesn’t mandate that we take our work with us on adoption trips, into hospital rooms and on family vacations.

If it is, then I’m ready to be unsuccessful for the rest of my life.

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18 Responses to “Work/life balance?”

  1. Kate Says:

    No heat coming from this commenter. How ridiculous of that woman to be proudly working while her daughter was in the hospital. To me, it clearly indicated that she was unable to remove herself from her daily work responsibilities to manage her family responsibilities – basically she has no concept or desire for her own work/life balance or else she would have recognized that cutting deals in the hospital was pretty inappropriate.

  2. Nancy Says:

    I’m with you on this. I did put in some “consulting time” during my 2nd maternity leave (to answer questions about my responsibilities from the people filling in for me) but I made it VERY clear to the people in my office that my priority was the baby, and that if they needed me they should e-mail first whenever possible to set up an appropriate time. During the two unfortunate times when one of my girls were hospitalized, I didn’t even think about work, and I had supervisors who supported that.

    To me, that woman’s story doesn’t represent having it all — it represents not really having anything because she’s juggling too much. But hey, if it works for her, she’s welcome to put in the hours while I stay home with my girls in the evenings…

  3. impromptublogger Says:

    I’ll never forget when my dd was 2 years old and had an awful rash first, and then a high fever – probably 5th Disease. I was working with a woman (now an ex-friend) who was getting married shortly and was all stressed about it.

    We were working on some mailing or other and because she was sick I chose not to stay late. My dh had been home with her and was exhausted and needed relief.

    Apparently that got her upset and she told me and I quote “Sometimes you need to put your career first before your family”. Boy was I pissed off about that, and I think she regretted saying that after she became a Mom herself.

    As it turned out, because of some other problems, the mailing didn’t go out on its supposed “deadline” anyway which had nothing to do with me!

  4. karrie Says:

    I think what disturbs me the most is the fact that the woman was beaming with happiness. If she had to take an important work-related call, fine, do what you need to do, but being happy to conduct business while your baby is hospitalized seems really cold and odd to me.

    It also sounds like a totally staged photo.

  5. Oh, The Joys Says:

    I consult. One client keeps trying to get me to take a full-time position. It would be a #2 position in a big, national, non-profit. It intrigues me, but I keep saying no. As a consultant, I’m their best friend. If we sleep together, everything will be ruined. I hate the idea of having to constantly choose between disappointing my office or my family.

  6. flybunny Says:

    In reality she thinks she has it all but she really doesn’t or else she would have better balance in her life. I cannot imagine being on the phone while my child was laying in a hospital bed.

    That being said, I am interviewing for a position right now that would mean a much needed pay increase but will also decrease the flexibility I have in my current posistion and I am really torn because we could really use the bump in income with a baby on the way but what am I giving up in return? I guess time will tell….

  7. Momish Says:

    This is an excellent post because is so rings home with me. Like flybunny, I just took on a new job with more demands and less flexibility (just because its a new job and all that). Now, having been there a month, I just had to tell my boss that I am not like him and the my co-workers. I just refuse to compete, because for me it ends up being a battle of family or career. I take pride in my job and have strong work ethics just like the rest. But, I’ll be damned if I will work with a clear head if my child is sick and in need of me. No contest!

    I agree that the priorities this woman displayed were askew. Sadly, though such articles like this make the rest of us in the workforce seem like we don’t care as much about our careers, jobs or employers because we don’t feel like this woman does.

  8. PunditMom Says:

    The sad thing about this story is the woman is a very senior level person in her firm — she is in a position to say, ‘I need to draw a line here,’ and truly set the tone for everyone in her office, men and women alike.

    For so many of us, there is a constant battle between finding work we love, work that will pay us well and having the time when our children need us. It saddens me when someone in a position of leadership and seniority makes it that much harder for the rest of us to make a descision that is less than 100% career driven.

  9. Mixter Says:

    No heat here. That is a disturbing story. There is something wrong with that lady…

    Mixter

  10. Lawyer Mama Says:

    I couldn’t get to your page yesterday and it was so frustrating. And see what I missed?

    This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I think you can have it all, but family comes first. If, god forbid, I ever find myself in that situation I’m positive I won’t allow work to interfere with my child’s well being.

    I actually submitted a guest post to the On Balance column in the Washington Post about this topic. For me, working and having a career does not mean that I work 80 hours a week and have a good nanny. It means that I have firm boundaries between work and family. It means that I work for an employer who understands and accepts that and doesn’t punish me for it.

  11. Renee Trudeau Says:

    Stories like the one you’re referencing and ones where people exclaim to have “achieved balance” while juggling palm pilots, homework and diapers) disturb me. I think we’re all trying to do too much. We’re overscheduled, overcommitted and over worked.

    To me balance means having enough time, energy and resources to devote to those things in life that are MOST IMPORTANT to me. I am a career coach and see clients who constantly feel like they have to make excuses at work in order to scale back, work around a kid’s or parent’s needs or just take 2 hours off to go to their 12-year old’s school play. In the workplace, we have such long way to go in how we view and support the work/life balance issue.

    Thanks to all of you for initiating and continuing the dialogue. The conversation is a crucial one.

    Renee Trudeau, Austin, TX

  12. Paige Says:

    Yeah, makes me think of this woman I know who worried more that she had “lost her edge” when she went back to work than anything else. Granted, I’ve learned my share of hard lessons when it comes to the whole work/life balance thing and made some stupid choices, but I think I know where my priorities are, especially when it comes to my child. It’s not going to kill us to turn off the freakin’ cell phones, you know?

  13. Queen of the Mayhem Says:

    I agree with you! I am blessed to have a job that is relatively accomadating to my children. However, there are times when I feel that pang of guilt. That sickening tug of war between my responsibility to my students, and my responsibility to my OWN children! I do think that if it takes neglecting my family to achieve, I too want to be unsuccessful! While I love having a career that fufills me, my family is my ABSOLUTE number one priority!

  14. Gunfighter Says:

    My wife is a respected prefessional. She has a lot of important things going on at certain times of the year (our government moves in cycles, folks), and there are cycles when the demands on her time are heavy.

    The good thing about my career is that I am high enough in the food chain that when my wife’s schedule has to change because of office demands, I change my schedule to accomodate.

    Screw my job… I have an esoteric skill set that is in fairly high demand. I can always work.

    I only have one chance to be a good dad.

  15. Vikas P Goel Says:

    hey , your thoughts are interesting .
    I blog about worklife balanace , mumbai marathon & finding great place to work at ; http://www.vgoel.blogspot.com/ & http://www.justforchange.blogspot.com/

  16. Jeffrey28 Says:

    I actually felt a little sad reading that story – both for the daughter who did not have her mother’s full attention (keeping the future therapists employed) and for the mom who is clearly missing out by not being completely present with her kid in a time of need. I have to admit though, especially judging from the other comments here, that I feel that we are preaching to the choir – the parents that need to read this, don’t. Also, on my blog, http://www.DadatWork.com, and in my coaching practice, I am dealing mostly with dads and their challenges. I guess it is my own form of “sexism” that had me thinking that moms are for the most part never that disconnected. Thank you for the reality check.

  17. Mombat Says:

    Unfortunately, this is another example of professional women adopting the alpha-male model of “balance.” It’s a disservice to our families and to the young women who enter the workforce after us.

    I have always made clear, in positive terms, that maternity leave and sick days are days on which I am unavailable — just as those days that I am in trial. We need to train our colleagues and our clients that we are no less professional because we have family responsibilities. Be firm and carve that time out.

  18. judi Says:

    everyone has their own setpoint for balance- i would not want to dictate what should work for others- it is a very personal line we draw.
    i quit work as a physician to stay home and raise my kids for 18 years- it is a decision i never regretted!
    i am not sure that “doing a deal” is such an awful thing if the sick child is sleeping peacefully- is it that different than watching tv? as long as she is available when her child needs her.


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