Work Life Balance – Is it a Fantasy?

Suparna malhotraLeadership, Success, Time-management, Wellness, Work-life balance0 Comments

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing”.

Harriet Braiker

Balance, the ultimate quest. The world we live in today pulls us in multiple directions, with life satisfaction now taking prime position. We are no longer satisfied with a job that pays the bills. We now want a job that is meaningful, impactful, satisfying (and pays the bills).

Lifestyle change dictate differing needs to the generation prior. As per a 2015 article in the Guardian, “A third of Britain’s working mothers are the main earners in their family..”

A study conducted by Bright Solutions found that  “48 per cent of couple families in the survey said they both worked full time. 57 per cent of single parents worked full time.”

With both parents and single parents working how is it possible to achieve balance between professional responsibilities, family and social? For many, the factor of having enough money to cover all areas comes into question. Especially when looking at the households where the woman (the mother) is the main breadwinner. They tend to be at the lower end of the income bracket.

For a long time there has been talk of having it all. Having it all would mean dedicating as much time to career as to the home and families. Sheryl Sandberg, in her book ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ advocated doing what was needed by outsourcing everything from a nanny to educating the children so that you as the woman can strive for leadership positions.

In an ideal world that is exactly how we would do it. With changes in our social constructs and lifestyles it is all the more difficult to achieve. There are far more single parent families now than ever before, (A 2015 report from the Office of National Statistics claims there are 2.0 million single parents living in the UK, 90% women, which leaves 10% men).
The economics of the 2.0 million does not always allow the hiring of nannies and tutors.

With the past generations of baby boomers and the ‘man works/woman stays home model’ this wasn’t a question. A clear division of roles presented a seemingly practical solution.  That is until women began to welcome ambitions outside the homes. Women are more ambitious and we remain the only ones who can give birth.

The reality remains women do tend to have it harder than men. More often than not they are the ones who carry the responsibility of childcare after a separation. When together they are still expected to do the housework, care for the children AND work. We must not forget women are still only paid 75 p for every £1 a man earns.

Therefore, this illusion or desire of ‘having it all’ does not, and cannot work. Despite the fact that more and more larger employers such as JP Morgan, Toyota and Cisco have systems in place to support parents. Such as flexible working hours, childcare at work or certainly the ability for senior executives to work from home. Still, it is not all of them.

In order to achieve balance other external factors need to be in place. The UK is one of the most expensive countries for provisions of childcare, which is too expensive to allow both parents to work.

Talking to my high achieving friends, clients and colleagues who are mums, the whole notion of perfection needs to be let go. As in perfect career, perfect family. We need to learn to lower our expectations and understand it will be messy. There will be times when motherhood will take priority, and times when a project at work that requires full attention.  Blended is the new balanced.

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