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The Myth -- or Reality? -- of Work-Life Balance

By HERWriter Guide
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can-women-find-work-life-balance Fuse/Thinkstock

A woman named Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook. You know, Facebook.

The thing that most of us (think we) can't do without -- that we check every day and where we post all about our kids' milestones and their every little vomit session, as well as nauseating and never-ending diatribes regarding religion, politics, how long it took to crochet a scarf and just how deliriously happy our marriage is (right before the relationship status changes to "it's complicated.")

But Facebook is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with a corporate culture of employees that can't stay away from their laptops and Blackberries and don't really seem to mind. It really is a culture -- a mindset and way of life.

So when the COO happened to mention recently that she left work at 5:30 p.m. to have dinner with her children at home by 6 p.m., it took the tech world by storm.

Almost incredulously, people read her statements that included eating dinner with her kids at 6 p.m. (at home) and admitting that yes, she checks her emails during the course of the evening but she's home -- and engaged with her family. By 6 p.m.

Cue the collective gasp! She can't be serious about her job, right? Who's home at 6 p.m.? What COO. of a huge company like Facebook has dinner with their kids?

In the whole scheme of things, techie world domination wins out, right? Well, not according to one of the most powerful women in the industry.

Many women are using flex-time, part-time choices or work-from-home options in order to be able to have a career and a family. They are told it won't make a difference to their career ambitions but we all know that with some companies, that's BS.

Many women in the corporate workplace pay a very heavy price for having children and some return to work as early as two weeks postpartum so as not to lose their standing.

And while that may be laudable in the work force, they know their mommy peers wonder how she can just leave a newborn like that, and act like he doesn't need his mama.

Women get it from both sides and when it's negative on both ends, it can make a can-do-it-all woman feel like she can't do anything at all. At least not without upsetting everyone around her, in some form or another.

This is why a woman like Sheryl Sandberg needs to speak out, and she finally is.

She doesn't apologize and doesn't think she's Mom of the Year. She's a highly successful career women who doesn't believe that putting in an 18-hour day makes her a better employee.

But we hear about the work-life balance all the time, especially when it comes to female employees. The term "working mom" is bandied about all over the place while "working dad" ... not so much.

Sandberg doesn't really believe in the work-life balance because she doesn't really think there can be one. Someone or something loses, either way.

She believes that unlike men, working women feel far more guilt about trying to fit it all in -- the demands of work and the needs of their children. She admits that being on her Blackberry while at home hurts her kids and makes her feel worse.

But then again, for years, Sandberg has stuck to her routine of leaving the workplace at 5:30 p.m. This isn't something she has talked about much, but is now more forthcoming about the practicalities -- and possibilities -- of being a working parent.

But many women might say it's actually easier for Sandberg to leave work at a reasonable time. She has just one boss to answer to and she's immensely powerful.

The regular working woman has a team to face, and often a slew of bosses to contend with. She has less power.

But I will always agree with Sandberg that there is no need to put in an 18-hour day, unless you cannot delegate, you are sorely lacking in time management or feel the need (and greed) to control everything around you. Corporate ego is huge.

With good delegation, time management and hiring the right people for the job, neither men nor women should be so tied to their jobs that it takes away any other life. Work addiction is a real thing, but it's the family and often the health of the worker that suffers.

At the end of the day, no matter how hard we work, how much money we make or what name we make for ourselves, we (if we're lucky) die at home with our families, not reclining in a chair with our colleagues.

And if we forgo that "work-life" balance, we're the ones who lose out in the end, and deny our loved ones the pleasure of our presence.

Tell Us
Do you think "work-life balance" is a myth or a reality? How do you balance your life?

Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Wow! What a great (and timely) article. I am lucky enough to work from home and have for years. The good news is - I work from home. The bad news is - I work from home! I have had employers in the past who took advantage of that and expected after hours works because they knew I was still there at the "office." I've finally (after many years) come to a point where I'm confident enough to set the boundaries between work and home. Of course, there is a huge difference, between now and when I was younger trying to achieve a work-life balance. Before, I answered to someone else and was more hesitant about saying "no" since it could reflect poorly in job evaluations, bonuses, etc. It wasn't healthy to be thought of as someone who wasn't a team player. Positional power - whether real or perceived - had a lot to do with how much work/life balance I could reasonably implement. Now, I'm a full-time writer and all the work I do is on a contract basis. It's much easier to set the boundaries between work and home now that I'm the final authority.

April 18, 2012 - 7:28pm
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