Monday, March 23, 2015

My perspective on work/life balance

Last week I was invited to speak to YNPN Grand Rapids about work/life balance. Here is my speech:
Everyone defines success differently.
Everyone’s family and work situation is different.
You need to determine what constitutes work / life balance for you. You need to determine what works for you.
To me work/life balance is a myth. I’m working on work/life integration.
For me, work/life integration wasn’t a challenge or issue until I had my child.
Before I had my daughter I could do all the work and/or fun things that I wanted to do. I am a very task oriented person so, I could move up in my career and pursue my career goals and my husband could pursue his goals.
After my daughter was born I had to have crucial conversations with my husband to get what I wanted and needed out of my work and family life.
I am a yes person at work so it took some time to figure out I couldn’t say yes to everything at work. Saying yes at work resulted in spending less time with my family. Even though I’m a top performer at work, I take on less things now that I have a child.
Here is some research I’ve found on the topic and things for you to consider as you continue the journey.
  • Women and men have different perspectives regarding what housework is or how housework should be done.
  • Men and women’s communication styles and work styles are different.
  • Research conducted on 25,000 graduates of Harvard Business School state they value fulfilling professional and personal lives – yet, their ability to realize their fulfilling lives has played out very differently according to gender.
    • Men and women don’t differ much in much of what they value and hope for in their lives.
    • However, women have been less satisfied with their careers.
    • There are gaps in men and women’s beliefs about successfully combining career and family.
    • 77% of graduates believe that prioritizing family over work is the number one barriers to a women’s career advancement.
    • There are still deep rooted attitudes that a woman should be the primary caregiver.
    • The graduates (women) anticipated their careers would rank equally with their partners, but many of them were disappointed.
    • The women didn’t opt out (some found themselves in unfulfilling roles, some were stigmatized for taking advantage of flex options or reduced schedules). Mommy tracked.
    • The majority of men expected to have their careers take presidence over their spouses career. And, a large majority of men expected their partners to take primary responsibility for childcare. Half of the women expected to take primary responsibility for raising children.
  • Other research shows millennial men are taking more on regards to household chores and childcare responsibilities but women are still stressed due to the prevailing cultural assumptions in the workplace. There is still an expectation gap.
    • Men who ask for more flexible work arrangements to take care of family are perceived more favorably than women who make similar requests.
  • Research also shows that same sex partners are better at equally dividing up household responsibilities and caring for the children.
So what does this mean for you? Have the conversation with your partner. Are you going to have kid(s)? How is the responsibility going to be divide up? You need to advocate for what you and your partner need to succeed at home and in the workplace. We all define success differently and our definitions of success change as we get older.
For me, work/life integration is:
  • Having conversations with my spouse (and my family members) and setting expectations that childcare and household duties are NOT my primary responsibility. It is shared between my husband and I.
  • Asking for help when I need it (I’m working on this).
  • Taking a vacation by myself once a year WITHOUT my child or my husband.
  • Advocating for myself in the workplace – my colleagues don’t decide what I can and cannot do because I have a family. I decide what I take on and what not to take on.
  • Understanding that an additional work project will take away from time with my family and additional time with my family will impact my career.
There are sacrifices that are being made on both sides in my career and in time with my family. That is what work life integration is all about.