Is Work/Family Balance a Pipe Dream?
July 13, 2011
by Sasha Emmons
I am lucky to have a job I truly love that’s mostly 9am to 5pm, with a little work at night sometimes after the kids are in bed. But a recent promotion has thrown things off-kilter as I put in late nights to get up to speed on new projects. I’m pretty sure things will even out again for me, maybe with a bit more work at night, but it should still be manageable. Good thing, because I’m married to someone with a Big Career.
Plus: Mom vs. Dad—Who’s Doing the Work?
My husband’s typically home around 8pm each night, missing one or both of the kids’ bedtimes, and goes in early sometimes too. He travels often. There are few boundaries between work and personal time; I like to tell the story about how his boss was sending him e-mails on the day everyone knew my son was being born…which was a Saturday…and the 4th of July. I complain about how much time he puts in, but the work culture in his office is such that leaving at 5pm feels like a walk of shame. And who wants to be the guy who leaves early every day with so many companies laying people off?
Plus: Are You Offended by the Term “Working Mom?”
I dream of better family balance—eating dinners together, taking turns tucking our kids into bed, and having more back-up when things get intense for me at work. But is that even realistic? A new piece on Huffington Post contends that top-level professionals consider 40 hours a week part-time according to a report from the Center for American Progress, and that working 9-to-5 would be “career suicide.” And over the last thirty years, most Americans have started working longer hours (while, sadly, they earn less).
Plus: Single Motherhood and Working From Home
Back to us: At least one of us has a job that, present learning curve aside, usually lets us keep a regular schedule for the kids, vital since we don’t live near family. We both have thriving careers in fields we love, a babysitter we can trust, a lifestyle that’s comfortable, and kids who are awesome despite not eating dinner with us most nights. Maybe this is as good as balance gets.
Plus: When Work Spills Over Into Family Time
I would love to hear: if you work full-time, how many hours a week do you and your spouse work? Has one or both of you had to give up on the idea of balance for your career? For a peek at how other people do it, read through A Cup of Jo’s Balancing Motherhood series, with work/life schedules from Smitten Kitchen, Oh Happy Day and more.