The topic of work-life balance has been a hot topic in my life since I commenced work. I truly think it has evolved from the baby boomers, who learnt their work ethic from their fathers (the builder generation). While I was learning to be a good wife by modelling my Mother, who had read the “Good Wife” book, my brothers were modelling our Dad. He worked hard for the money. The work week was five days of long hours and weekends would be sport or pub time. The world peace from World War II had many women not in the workforce so they made great homes and brought up great kids like us.
In the 1960’s women began to enter the workforce at first part time. Then with growing confidence and the enjoyment of more cash for the family they transitioned into full time. For some, that transition included further education and self-empowerment. As the women became more independent they did not just burn their bras (thanks Germaine Greer) they burnt the Good Wife book and they taught their daughters to get further education, speak up, question the status quo and even start businesses.
Welcome to the modern family life, which has sustained a paradigm shift that my parents would be unlikely to understand. Women are well educated and 46% of woman own their own business with one in four starting businesses and being in executive level positions. The family unit is less traditional than it’s ever been. Blended families are common and marriage not so common. Same gender marriage is topical and making its way throughout the world as equally as opposite gender.
So why is work-life balance so topical and why has it been so for at least thirty-five years?
I believe it has its roots in the days of industry were people did not see the sun enough and became ill from lack of Vitamin D. Yes, it’s happening now that the same lack of vitamin D is part of ill health as we stay indoors not just because of work but because we use technology for our lifestyle and in particular our entertainment. Work-life balance was about doing more than the 9 to 5 job, it was saying stop work go play have fun.
Today’s workforce does play often, seen in cafes and boutique pubs after work in the attempt to have some me time a little relax or reward after all our world does require self-indulgence. But often this leads to excess and ill health.
So back to our modern family with woman entering the workforce and the corporate world. She often takes on many roles, including Mother and she has a life partner as well. She might be studying and she may also be running some form of business. So, in all that she has contributed to the changing face of the modern family. Her partner is no longer the only one who brings in the money. She has never heard of the Good Wife book and she expects her partner to be as equally involved in their “partnership” or “marriage” and why not. After all both are responding to the demands of family, work and life.
So, technology in our lives has in some ways helped us but in some ways burdened us. Yes, we can work from various places and can work while we prepare a meal. We answer the phone while talking to friends and we can also read our handheld device as though it was a tabloid and its all quite acceptable. Technology has us on call and that creates more tasks and more to manage.
The men in our lives have been asked to change the way they are in the home. No longer do they do as my Dad did, sit down and have a meal served to them. They are to do their share of the tasks that remain, shop, collect kids, make food, do homework and clean. The list goes on as we have much to do and we want to do it all now.
Pressure on today’s people comes from the media, often it is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and websites that depict the perfection of work-life balance. This is a couple that workout, are buffed and dressed in designer label clothes. They know quality and they drink green juice. They have gorgeous children dressed to match and the family car that does not look like a bus. All without even raising a sweat. Oh, and when she is pregnant she looks perfect and bounces back into her pre-baby shape in a matter of days.
This all creates pressure and people say you should have work-life balance and I say bullshit!
Seriously being yourself and authentic are essential to your sanity (it takes work to invest into all that you think you should be). Yes, women are capable and they do a lot. So, do the men who are seriously trying to keep up with the women. It’s tough for them when their DNA is screaming Hey aren’t I the bread winner in this alpha male world, don’t I get to rest after my work day that is long.
I am not having a go at men or women what I am saying is that life is different to how it used to be and that work-life balance has no formula like it once did. What is work-life balance for you, it’s going to be different to me.
The problem that I see is that the pressure of balance and pleasing all and doing everything all at once is creating for both the Woman and the Man is GUILT. Yes, its guilt they feel bad that they haven’t done this or that. They are possibly doing to each other creating little guilt anchors that they each unknowingly press because we are living a different way than our fathers and mothers.
We are living an integrated life bringing in the needs of our families’ careers and friends in creative ways. There will be times where you need to lean in and do more. You might need to dig deep and find the courage to do what is most important at the time and then you will have times where it flows.
Life Integration is focusing on what is important to you determine your value hierarchy. List what is not negotiable. Find ways to combine (like walking meetings, inviting friends to an annual event) but be careful of the traditions that you have and may create to achieve the combining as they may become another task.