Work-family life balance is like a unicorn or a yeti. People talk about this concept as if it is real. Some say they have had sightings of it and yet, it is so elusive that it remains a myth to most of us. There is nothing balanced about life and there never has been. We operate under the misconception that one day it will all balance out… The job, the kids, the partner, the hobbies, the errands, the social life etc. but it doesn’t balance out and so we are left feeling like there is something we have done wrong. The truth is everyone is in this exact same boat; waiting for a miracle to balance out their lives, but that miracle never appears. You cannot control all the external conditions of your own life enough to achieve balance. This is why adhering to your emotional guidance system and following your joy in the moment is so much more effective than searching for the mythical unicorn called balance.
I realize this blog post may elicit emotional reactions for some, but I do not believe in avoiding sore subjects; so today, I’m going there. I’m going to express my very human perspective about being a woman/mother and working at the same time.
The woman’s rights movement backfired big time! You cannot look at the movement and say that it accomplished nothing. If you lived in the 1950s as a woman and then lived today as a woman, you’d see obvious proof that the revolution rescued women in many ways. But it also condemned us. We wanted equality. That is not what we got. What we got is the societal expectation that we should “do it all”. Working women are now the most stressed out demographic in the world. It’s as if in response to the women’s rights movement, men said, “Oh, you want the right to work? Ok. Then work, but you still have to raise the children too, and keep a clean house, and have dinner on the table by 5:00.” As women, it honestly feels like we flew out of the frying pan and into the fire. We may have gained the right to work and receive equal pay (well that’s actually up for debate), but we lost the right to stay home with children whilst maintaining our dignity. It is as if we are between a rock and a hard place. Raising children is a full time job. And in a society where we do not live in intentional communities yet, it is a job that most women have to do with minimal support. So what are we supposed to do when raising children is a full time job and we also work full time jobs? Even more, what are we supposed to do when we are single mothers who work full time jobs, but the cost of daycare IS the price of the salary of our full time job? So many of us are in this exact position.
In today’s world, as a woman, you cannot stay home to raise your kids without simultaneously loosing your dignity. We are conditioned to believe that if we make the choice to be stay at home moms, we are a disgrace. We are conditioned to believe that our lives are a wash and that we have let womanhood down by falling back into the domesticated role we tried so hard to break out of. When you chose to be a stay at home mom, people treat you like you are either lazy, stupid, unattractive or have given up on yourself. The unforeseen aftermath of the women’s rights movement is that there is a prejudice against stay at home mothers. Now, keeping that in mind, let’s look at what happens when a woman chooses to work instead.
Today’s world is expensive and complicated. It is a rare woman who finds herself in the position of being able to quit her job when she has children. There are more single mothers today than ever before and even those of us who are married or partnered up, are not often paired up with men or partners who make enough money to enable us to quit our jobs. So, we must “balance” family life with work life. But what happens when we either choose to work or are in a position where we have to work after we become mothers? We discover that the women’s rights movement did nothing to change what is expected of us as women. Maternity discrimination aside, if we work, we are treated like we are selfish, non maternal, career bitches who do not have our priorities straight. There are still massive double standards that women face in society when they choose to work. This double standard exists even if we do not have a family yet. But the harsh reality that we face is, in today’s world, we are damned if we do and we are damned if we don’t.
I have personally experienced both the rock and the hard place of this particular situation. When I had my son, I decided to be a stay at home mom for the first year of his life. After all, I am a breastfeeding Nazi who believes wholeheartedly in the concept of the “fourth trimester” and I didn’t want anyone else giving him his first taste of human connection. At the time I decided to become a mother none of my friends had children, so I was the first one to “walk the plank”. I was surrounded by an eclectic mix of professional athletes and spiritual/new age people. The athletes thought I had come down with some kind of rare mental illness that had caused me to believe that a mewling infant was more important than a shot at an Olympic gold medal. The Spiritual people thought I had come down with some kind of rare mental illness that had caused me to believe that a mewling infant was more important than the freedom of traveling to mount Shasta or attending a week long vipassana retreat. When I told many of my friends that I was pregnant, the overwhelming reaction was “Oh my god, congratulations…why did you want to do that?”
When I decided that I could no longer be happy whilst avoiding my true purpose/passion, I embarked on the career path that I am on today. I figured that those days of being looked down on for being a stay at home mom were behind me. I was right. They were behind me. But now I faced a different kind of problem; the plethora of difficulties that come along with being a working wife and mother and the prejudice against career moms. Quickly, I realized how impossibly hard it is to balance time with family and time working. This is even truer for those of us women who own our own businesses. The workday does not end for us. There is no clock in and clock out time. The business itself is like a second child in need of constant supervision. When I started my own business, I discovered just how impossible it is to feel like a good person and be working mother at the same time. It’s the guilt that gets you. It’s the look on my son’s face when I tell him “someone else is going to read you a book tonight, because mommy has another radio show”. It’s the look on my x husband’s face when I would tell him “I’ll be done in thirty minutes”. The guilt eats you alive as a career woman who has a family to support. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get that balance right between the people you love and the career you love.
The minute I decided to be a career woman, I started being chastised for being a self centered, success freak, whose son and husband were caught and neglected in the wake of my ambition. The most shocking thing was that most of this prejudice against working women was coming from other women! I still get comments from other women that blow my mind and serve to drive the guilt in even deeper. Not even a month ago, I was on a radio show explaining how instead of telling children that monsters don’t exist, you can use children’s “monster in the closet fears” to tap into their true desires and true feelings. I opened up publicly about my own son having told me that the monster in his closet “wants to be sung to sleep” (meaning of course that he wanted to be sung to sleep). I received three separate e-mails from women telling me that I need to re assess my priorities because it was obvious to them after listening to the show that my son feels neglected by me and that he needs me but doesn’t know how to tell me that. Needless to say, I spiraled into a guilt abyss.
Plenty of men intimately understand this difficulty of balancing work life and home life, but since this article is really about women, it needs to be said that as a woman in today’s society, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There is no way to balance your home life and work life in a way that will make everyone happy. I could become "the spiritual teacher" by switching into my other enlightened perspective and offer a solution for this conundrum, but today, I’m looking for a more personal, human connection. I’m more interested in hearing your perspective. If you are a man, what is your perspective on this subject? If you are a woman, what is your perspective on this subject? Have you found any kind of solution? Post your answers in the comment section below.
And as always, I love you.