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Exploring the Work-Life Balance for Women

Exploring the Work-Life Balance for Women

According to a survey from MORE, a shift in consciousness is upon us. More women are now looking for flexibility in their work lives, and are willing to sacrifice more in order to take care of their home lives. Perhaps this is a sign that women no longer feel as if they have to “do it all” — the career, the husband, the kids — and are willing to make some tough choices that result in sacrifices in one area of their lives. On the other hand, maybe this is a sign of gender roles at home regressing to previous norms where women were expected to be the caregivers and men were expected to bring home the bacon.

Perhaps more and more women are trying to find work that allows them some flexibility rather than jobs that will turn into high-powered careers because they don’t have a choice. Someone has to raise the kids, and in this economy, affordable daycare and paid, comprehensive maternity leaves are difficult to find. My husband and I have often talked about what we will do if and when we have kids, because daycare will easily eat up an entire paycheck, especially if we have to put an infant in daycare (which often costs more than, say, putting a toddler in daycare) because we cannot afford for me to stay home for an extended period of time.

Many women are caught in this same catch-22; they will be stretched financially to put their children in daycare, but they cannot afford not to. Furthermore, with so many women facing unpaid or too-short maternity leaves, the decision of whether or not to have a child becomes one of finances rather than family. Left in that situation, it’s no wonder women want more flexibility in their jobs; if they have to work because they can’t afford not to, they want to be home as much as they can.

The rhetoric surrounding motherhood doesn’t help us make decisions about motherhood, either. We all know by now that ”being a mom is the most important job in the world,” as the discourse between the Romneys and Hilary Rosen a few weeks back has told us. Rarely does anyone argue this; children are, quite literally, the future of our world, and raising them is vitally important to families, society and our planet as a whole.

We’re also surrounded by working mothers with high-powered careers who, like Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, make sure they leave work at 5:30 every day or who, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were able to stay home until their kids were older and then launch their careers later in life. The rhetoric that being a mom is the most important thing you can do coupled with images of successful, working moms in the media make it difficult for women to make the choice between career and family. They don’t want to seem like they are ignoring their children, nor do they feel able to give up their careers.

Regardless of why women feel this way, admitting that you can’t do it all is a healthy one, according to Barbara and Shannon Kelley. In their book, “Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for the Perfect Career and Find a Job (and Life) That Works for You,” the mother-daughter team interviewed many women about their lives and careers and found that women are often buried under emotional and social pressure to do everything, and burdened with guilt and regret if they cannot. They argue that we need to get rid of these feelings of guilt and have realistic expectations for ourselves and each other.

Realistic expectations for ourselves and privileging motherhood are two steps on the path toward healthy work and home lives for women. As a society, however, we have a long way to go. Offering affordable child care and comprehensive, paid maternity leaves are essential steps toward making a true work-life balance possible, but, unfortunately, we have a long way to go before these become standard in our society.

Related Stories:

Women Feel Guiltier Than Men About Work-Life Balance

Does Your Life Measure Up?

Being “Supermom” Could Be Bad for Your Health

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Photo Credit: CJAG93

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25 comments

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9:10AM PST on Nov 21, 2012

It is in fact very difficult for women to combine everything.. When I had started my own business 5 years ago and then became pregnant, I almost went crazy. I didn’t recognize at first but I ended up giving my life for everything else but me. Of course, I love my daughter and I like my job, but I forgot to live. I then understood that I needed professional help and started to consult a personal life coach. This coach really opened my eyes and helped me to keep the balance of everything that is important to me in life. It is still hard sometimes to break the habit of striving to perfection :) but I am willing to practise! (I can recommend e.g. Your24hCoach.com which is where I found my coach) I think it is important not to save on the false part of life. .. I am truly thankful to have so much more quality of life nowadays even if I still need to remind me of the things I’ve learned sometimes.:) Best Regards, Jessica

8:26AM PDT on May 5, 2012

Having children is a choice and YOU only can make that choice but you also have to take the responsability and not expect others to do it for you or pay for it....

4:17AM PDT on May 5, 2012

Yes, it is very tough on women. Fortunately I have a very helpful caring husband, so we managed to balance it between us.

4:12AM PDT on May 5, 2012

So what else is new!

4:12AM PDT on May 5, 2012

So what else is new!

4:12AM PDT on May 5, 2012

So what else is new!

4:12AM PDT on May 5, 2012

So what else is new!

2:32AM PDT on May 5, 2012

continued . . .
. . . By the way, 3.5 years after that discussion with the VP, I collapsed at work from physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Don't let that happen to you!

2:30AM PDT on May 5, 2012

I am a single woman who has never had children and never wanted to, for my own reasons. However I have friends and co-workers who I just marvel at as they try to balance work and family life. Scattered some days because a child came down sick, yet they still have to go to work --- so it's off to a sitter. Then there are some times that little Johnnie really wants mommy to see him graduate from kindergarden to the 1st grade but mommy is working. As a manager, I always tried to cut my staff some slack that way, and in return, I usually got suggestions like"If I can come in an hour early and work through lunch, can I leave early for my child's...". You get the picture. But I know not all employers work that way.

But as a single woman, and probably single men experience this too, our balance between a healthy life and work can often be thought by others to be unnecessary. Take the VP that promoted me to a very involved job (I was misled right down the garden path!) because as he later said "You are single and you'll put in the extra time required to get the job done." (and without overtime!)

A healthy work/life balance is so important whether you are a parent or are single or if you are a childless couple. It is about making your priorities. If you want to do it all, then some of it may be half-assed. If you stick to your priorities, then you will be more relaxed and happier. By the way, 3.5 years after that discussion with the VP, I collapsed at work from physica

8:09PM PDT on May 4, 2012

Oh my...yes Lydia and Belle Rita...even after all these years, and after coming a long way, we still have a very long way to go. We are still only at the very beginning of a real Women's Movement. We still are only in the beginning stages of any significant change for women. That is how deeply embedded our beliefs about gender and roles are. And how insidious.

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LOL!!! I've never seen anything like this! Adorable.

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Horrible thing going on! Hope this industry ends soon.

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