A New Work Life Imbalance?
Now that we are retired from our very intense careers, we have begun to get a new perspective on that dream state referred to as work/life balance. We have an office in a coworking space, and our neighbors are mostly energetic young people who come and go every day on a regular nine to five schedule. We don’t know anything about their family obligations, but if they have some it would seem that the regularity of their jobs would make it relatively easy to perform them. So we have come to think that the real problem we had was not a lack of balance, but an utter lack of control over our time.
For us, there was never a balance between work and family. Every day was another decision about priorities. Sometimes children or husband won. Sometimes work. Sometimes it was an obvious choice. Sometimes not. We often felt stress. But we had fabulously interesting jobs, and we wanted to keep them. And, like Justice O’Connor, we were able to do that only with the help of our wonderful nannies.
We had to prove ourselves first. We didn’t get the benefit of the doubt, as our male colleagues with families usually did. We had a higher hurdle to earn the trust that we had the talent and commitment to do quality work, on time. We might take the day off to go on a child’s field trip, but we always arranged to meet expectations, usually by working nights and weekends. We left nothing to chance—and no room for complaint.
Was it perfect? No. Children were unhappy sometimes, mostly in the earlier years. But we did our best to show them we were there for them, in different ways, and that they could count on us when it mattered. Now, they tell us they are proud and lucky to have working mothers. We think they know it wouldn’t have been good for them, or for us, had we not been engaged in the working world.
Was it hard? Yes. Would we do it again? For sure. And while we hope the pressures might ease, we rather doubt that they will in the kinds of work that we did. In the future robots may do a lot of the grunt work, and maybe the issue will be finding enough work for everyone. A completely different work life balance. We don’t think that will be the case for those who ascend to leadership. So women will have to decide whether to join the fray, with all of its pressures, or not. We hope they do. Women will power change, which will make working life better for all of us—even if not more relaxed. And women will have fun. We promise.