Is There Another Way? Yes! But We Don’t Hear About It Until Now…
Sue Shellenbarger’s terrific article in today’s Wall Street Journal offers sobering proof that one of my fears is coming true: “Opting out” is becoming a work/life balance management strategy that is no longer limited to high-income mothers. It is trickling down to mothers in lower earning brackets, and the result may have potentially negative long-term financial ramifications on their families.
I am all for each of us making work+life choices based on our unique circumstances. However, I’m concerned that too often those choices are not being made using 21st Century thinking or facts, and instead are being guided by outdated approaches. It’s this mismatch between the outdated and often inaccurate way we, as a culture, still think about how to manage work+life and today’s realities that is causing many of us to make choices that may not be optimal given our specific set of circumstances. That includes our personal financial reality.
You may have heard a loud “Thank You!” coming from the New Jersey area this week as I read the following quote from Carol Bartz, Executive Chairman of Autodesk. In a Wall Street Journal article by Carol Hymowitz, entitled “View From the Top,” Ms. Bartz said that “The word ‘balance’ should be banished from women’s vocabulary.” I, of course, would take that a step further and say it should be banished from everyone’s vocabulary, but regardless, hooray!
I shouted for joy! Finally someone at her level is supporting what I’ve been saying for years: The word “balance” doesn’t reflect reality and, therefore, is the cause of much unnecessary grief and guilt.
Watching the video clip of Carol Bartz talking about how unrealistic the term “balance” is, you can see her hold her hands in the air at the same height to symbolize what most people believe–that our goal is a 50-50 split between work and personal life which she says is the myth of trying to “have it all.” (Her description of what that means is actually hilarious). She then shifts one hand down and one hand up to illustrate how time and energy focused on your work, and focused on your personal life need to shift depending upon what’s happening at any given time.
You’ve decided what you want your holiday work+life fit (or work/life balance) to look like — what activities you’d like to try to participate in, what days you’d like to try to take off, etc. Now, it’s time to figure out in advance how you are going to manage technology to help you achieve your holiday work+life fit goals in the least stressful, most enjoyable way.
Truth: Technology can be your best work+life fit friend. Unfortunate Reality: Instead of managing technology, technology manages you! And the result is a seemingly unending connection between work and your holiday celebrations.
Okay, so what can you do to avoid having technology become the Grinch that Stole Your Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa) this year? Here are a couple of suggestions:
Special Note: Scroll down to the end for my Holiday Work+Life “Fit” Tip #1—Finding Time and Making It Happen!
Work+life “fit” means strategically managing the boundary between your work and life in response to personal and professional transitions. It’s difficult to plan when a transition occurs, but it pays to consider what your fit might look like when it does. Some work+life fit transitions will be small like getting to the gym periodically, finding some time for your friends or a date, etc; therefore, your fit will require a minor adjustment. But, some of those transitions will be big, and overwhelming. This was my experience with eldercare.
I’m going to begin by making two important points. First, after a decade in the work+life field I can honestly say that everyone I’ve met or worked with approaches their particular area of interest and focus with the best of intentions. And second, I applaud anyone brave enough to stand up and call out a truth as they see it no matter the consequences.
Back in 2003, NYTimes writer, Lisa Belkin, did both of these things in her article “The Opt-Out Revolution.” With the best of intentions (I met her and heard her discuss the article shortly after it was published), Lisa bravely called out a trend as she saw it: professional women who represent the future senior leaders of corporations were “opting out” once they had children. Little did she imagine that her article and the term it spawned, “Opting out,” would have such far-reaching impact.
In response to a study that was just published by Joan C. Williams at the UC Hastings College of Law entitled, “Opt Out or Pushed Out? How the Press Cover Work/Family Conflict,” Belkin was forced to revisit and defend some key of her points in this week’s Sunday New York Times. Her defense of the unintended negative consequences of the “Opting Out” article (as well as other pieces published on the subject dating back to 1980) reinforced some of the concerns I’ve had with the aftermath over the past three years.
Oh, no! I continue to pray that dads resist the rabbit hole of “daddy wars” that have distracted moms from real work+life issues for too many years. My desire to get all of us–men and women in all stages of life–to focus on the real issues prompted me to start writing my book seven years ago. I wrote about the limited ability of companies to “solve” this problem for us, and about how individuals need to play a larger role in setting boundaries around work and life, given our circumstances in the new 24/7 work reality.
Yet, Brian Reid in his Rebeldad blog for Washingtonpost.com has asked his readers to define “daddy wars” saying: