Work-life balance can mean tough trade-offs

by Fred

The Downside of Work-Life Balance

Totebag – what do you think?

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77 thoughts on “Work-life balance can mean tough trade-offs

  1. In reading the article, I am nor sure what is new as I found that I employ all of his options at the same time. I think the seasons option is just part of life (often as a entry-level employee you are putting more focus there to build your career and income or being single or in a pre-kids relationship has different demands for family time). The option to outsource – we used day care/camps/etc. when our children were young, and we have a house cleaner now. The option to do the most within the time constraints – I guess I frame it differently to think about being as productive in the time I have allocated to that area or task.

    Regardless of how you think about life, you time is not limitless which forces you to always make choices. Do I clean my house myself or outsource it? Do I pursue this job that pays twice as much, but means my travel days away from home double? Do I retire early or shift to part-time work to care for elderly parents or children? Do I volunteer at my kids school or just send a check? Most of these decisions are requiring you to choose between burners. I would say the biggest problem is not being aware of what you are choosing between.

  2. I started to read the article and then got bored. In using his burner theory, it seemed like he was saying that they all can’t be on and operating at full force. But who is to say that they always have to be burning on high. Talk about wearing yourself out. When I’m feeling pushed to the max I give myself a grade. I’m currently at a B for work, A for family, C for friends. And I’m constantly adjusting. Some weeks my family is at a C. I’m aware of that and will make adjustments so that it doesn’t stay that way for long.

  3. Lemon, that’s the point of the article – you can’t have all four burners going on high at the same time.

    I don’t think it’s anything new, and I would say there are three burners – work, fun personal life (the things you want to do), and chores/personal work (the things you have to do but don’t like doing). It’s been well-know that you can’t have it all.

  4. I think this theory gives singeltons the short shrift and isn’t totally accurate to real life. When I was in my 20’s, I had the time to devote to career, but my job wasn’t that demanding even if I tried. I did get more exercise and had more superficial friends. By the time it was getting busy, I was more interested in turning on the family sector, but still single. Looking for a mate takes time, especially as you age.

    Also, one of the comments to that story mentioned you have to “stay on the bus,” which I totally agree with. Its hard to turn a burner on when you finally need/want it.

    As a follow up on the how to make/keep friends conversation from a while back…..try to accept invitations from friends if you can. I bought concert tickets months ago for a concert (well known and liked artist) this weekend. (you gotta plan if you want to go do fun things) Totally forgot about them. It took asking 5 different people (I am not asking for payment, just their company) to find someone to go. Guess who I will be inviting/not inviting next time to do stuff with me.

  5. When I read this I thought it was a way to compartmentalize things. Since then, and for some reason I’ve been reading/thinking about the work-(rest of) life balance question, I’ve concluded the same…you can’t have everything at once/all the time.

    Anybody watching ‘A Million Little Things’? (Spoiler alert re last night’s episode) One character has been striving to make partner at her law firm. She does get invited to be a partner but she asks/demands that “I be off the grid grom 6-8pm every night for dinner with [her] son”. Because of that the offer gets rescinded. Her reaction: “I didn’t make partner…I get my life back.”

  6. I agree that you can’t have all burners on full force all the time. But, if you go back to a cooking analogy, your rarely are cooking with all burners on high at the same time. One or two might be on high, but another one is simmering on low. To me “can’t have it all” means I don’t even turn that burner on. I am “turning up a burner” by participating more in my book club than I have in almost 20 years because I “turned it almost off” when it conflicted with time in the evening with children. It wasn’t quite off as I did look at what they were reading and did sometimes read those on my own.

  7. “I would say the biggest problem is not being aware of what you are choosing between.”

    That sounds right.

    This blog started at TOS as the juggle way back when, so this post carries on that theme but with a different metaphor. I like the stove image more since the juggle makes me imagine things falling to the floor when trying to maintain a balance. OTOH, the stove image conjures up the idea of getting burned. Hmm.

  8. The seasons method is what worked for me. The work burner was actually off for almost 15 years, and the pilot light had gone out and the line was clogged so it took a lot of determination to get the burner on again. I had the friends’ burner on simmer until this late stage of life – a benefit of now having free time, and never really paid much attention to interventions or habits in the contemporary usage of the word “health” (I have been gifted with natural good physical health in the old usage). So balance was always for me between family and work.

    Outsourcing = money unless you have a large family household where everyone pitches in or a traditional culture/pioneer style community in which people perform their distinctive services for each other without a medium of exchange. Outside of the comfortable middle class and above, the work burner can be on constant high without generating sufficient funds to cover the other needs.

  9. The article mentions that some parenting can be outsourced, and I think most of us have done that. It is pretty easy to do when the kids are small, and sort of like a business owner who starts outsourcing by hiring employees, there are ways to keep your print on everything and ensure quality. But the thing I have learned is that the outsourcing of parenting becomes really hard once the kids hit middle school years. Options for outsourcing, like afterschool programs, start disappearing at that age. And yet, middle school kids need a lot of time and attention, and especially, they need our time and attention. I think new parents should be made aware of this so they can plan career focus accordingly

  10. MM – Agree! A friend of mine said told me right after my second was born that it is more important to be home after school for middle school on up than for middle school and below. For the reasons you cited, plus they seem to brain dump once to whoever is there at that time. If you aren’t there, it doesn’t get repeated.

  11. “but she asks/demands that “I be off the grid grom 6-8pm every night for dinner with [her] son”

    dont’ ask, do.

  12. Kerri – yeah, I thought that (ask) was unrealistic. By that stage of one’s career ‘ask forgiveness, not permission’ should be well engrained. But the character had been struggling with the demands of her job/career and how that (could be) messing up her relationship with her son. So maybe it was a calculated way to say no thanks to the partnership offer without saying no.

  13. Fred and Kerri – and for optics (for a tv show) it’s easier to demand something like that outright, than ask forgiveness. The nuance and time spent in the show on the point would have been dragged out and not as obvious as “I chose my life over partner”.

  14. I’ll have to check out the show.

    I refuse to watch “I Feel Bad” BTW. I caught one episode and that was enough.

  15. All these analogies say the same thing to me – you can’t have it all, and the harder you try the more you’re going to get hurt (a juggled item falling on you… getting burned by the stove…). And for me, that’s the hardest thing. My career taking off and kids came at the exact same time. My health went and what friends?? So I get it.

    For someone who likes to live up to potential (or exceed it), simmering everything seems annoying. And like I don’t get anywhere. But the seasonality thing is tough for me to swallow. Doing that, right now, would still mean I have to choose between work and family. That’s a hard choice to make when you are the breadwinner and the mom. Basically, I can’t win and I have to learn to be OK with that.

    I’ve done my best to be 100% at work and 100% at home when possible. And that level of shutdown is supported by my company. We are only paid for a certain number of hours and are not expected to put in more (though we all do anyway). I’ve been very close to that number of hours expected and have not seen any negative impacts. One day they will come, but right now I’m OK.

  16. Do you all feel like you and your spouses are on the same page regarding the work/life balance?

  17. Rocky – I don’t think DW has adjusted to me having a lot more flexibility the past 2.5yrs (same job, new direct boss) simply because the current manager gets it that people have stuff that needs to be taken care of and sometimes that happens during work hours. The old regime wasn’t very supportive of having to be out of the office for a couple of hours to meet the plumber, etc.

    So, e.g. she was much more open to DS3 having a car at college this (soph) year than I was since it would enable him to get from here to there and back without her having to drive him. But for me it’s no big deal to do the drive. It might cost me 0.5-1 vacation day/event but I’ve got plenty of vacation time, an understanding boss. And, honestly, it’s much more time and cost effective to fly him one way for usually ~$100, so we’ve been doing that more. He doesn’t come home very often, T-day was the first time this semester, so it’s really no big deal.

  18. RMS – that’s a good question. DH has been at his job for long enough to have a lot of flexibility. He also has a job that lends itself to being flexible. I think being the parent-point-of-contact for a couple years threw him, but he righted and actually loves being heavily involved. It’s to the point that the teachers and day care providers always see him (though they always call me first…). I don’t know if we’ve ever had an honest conversation about work/life balance. We do have a car trip coming up for the holidays… that might be a nice thing to talk about when the boys are napping.

  19. “Do you all feel like you and your spouses are on the same page regarding the work/life balance?”

    We talk about it almost exhaustively because having two people minding the burners allows for a lot more wiggle room. I feel like most of the time, we have a good routine & good communication around how to make things work day-to-day. Big picture, we have made decisions for the family with that in mind – everything from school choice to where we live to which jobs we’ve each taken or considered.

  20. Now no, at one time yes. The big issue now is where we each see ourselves. He sees himself as retired and having to manage ONLY the spending side. Although I retired, I went back to work part-time and am actually taking on a second part-time job (very part-time and completely different work) because I still see myself as being able to manage both income and spending. I also see the potential of my current part-time job coming to an end in the next 2 years and am trying to find something to replace that income and mental stimulation that will replace it that I enjoy.

    Because of how he sees himself, he is less willing to spend money to do things. I am pushing to do those things that require our health/stamina to be no worse than it is today. I am also pushing to do things with our kids before we are completely empty nesters

  21. DH’s various positions involved travel and though I would like to have him involved more, it wasn’t happening. When the kids were younger I wanted to give up my job but I realized I could continue and quietly make my own flexible schedule. The next big step, I am
    looking forward to is DS driving. That will take a lot off my plate and definitely leave me with time for myself.

  22. Louise, it doesn’t look like anyone will be driving much in Charlotte by Sunday.

    I didn’t think about this for a while, but I have been thinking about this A LOT this week because a full time job opportunity popped up. I am not sure if I really want to take it, but I was taken aback by how clear it was that DD/DH do not want me to take it. The reason is that it will involve some travel at least 3 or 4 times a month. I can probably do most of the work from home, but I would have to travel to the main office and to clients.
    The timing is not ideal for me because I wasn’t looking for full time work. This would potentially start around March of 2019. I really didn’t want to return to full time work until DD was in college. I don’t want to just turn down an opportunity though just because I am concerned about carpools and lack of vacation. In order for me to take this job, my DH would have to make some sacrifices because there are times when one of us would have to be here for DD vs a grandparent. I would also need some sort of driver because she isn’t going to want a babysitter, and she is uncomfortable taking uber alone. I know DH will be fine if I say that I really want to do this, but DD is very grumpy.

  23. We are on the same page because we carefully analyzed our situation and mutually decided upon our work life balance plan about 20 years ago when things got too crazy with the juggle. We decided I would be a SHP for at least a while. At the time it was a major change that neither of us would have predicted until we were in the thick of it. It’s worked out well, but of course not perfectly.

    Right now I’m evaluating his company benefits to make decisions about health insurance for next year, but his company makes it very hard for anyone except the employee to access some of the pertinent information. So I have to bring in DH to get involved even though he would prefer not to.

    These benefit packages seem to get more complicated every year. They used to offer a side-by-side comparison of the medical plans, but not this year. The plan comparision “summaries” are contained in a 57-page document. That’s in addition to the individual detailed plan descriptions on other documents. Then they’ve added more options for extra insurance over and above the plans. We have an excellent plan so I don’t mean to complain, but just pointing out how complicated this gets. On top of all this they’ve changed from automatic re-enrollment to existing plans to a need to actively make elections or you’ll be dropped from the plans. Yikes.

  24. I know DH will be fine if I say that I really want to do this, but DD is very grumpy.

    She may appreciate your decision more when she’s older. In both the ‘understand’ sense and the ‘be grateful for’ sense.

  25. Haven’t read the article, but the title and comments sound like it’s a lesson I learned from you all years ago. You can’t do it all, all at once. It was shocking to me at first, but really just makes sense.

  26. I asked in part because I know two families where the husband grumbles at length about how they expected to have more money by now but noooo, the wife chose to stay home with the kids. I feel pretty certain that both husbands agreed to this at the time. In one case I also think the husband is not accounting for how much financial help the wife’s family has provided. It may just be that I know a couple of pissy, resentful guys. When I point out that having a stay-at-home parent allowed the husbands to travel a lot for work, thus allowing him to get ahead, they both acknowledge the truth about that.

  27. ITA with MM on the difficulties of outsourcing child care when children are older. It was one of the biggest surprises of parenting, and one that I pass along to younger women trying to decide whether to continue in the workforce after they have a baby. I tell them that it is much easier to negotiate for flexible schedules or part-time status in an existing job than a new one, and that tweens and teens actually NEED your attentive presence more than toddlers do.

  28. Lauren, she’s starting high school, right? The first few times you’re gone could be tough for her, but she will grow into it. After a few months, it’ll be summer. Even though you’ll be working, you’ll still be around and might switch your schedule for her needs. By the time school starts again, she’ll be almost a year older than she is now, and quickly growing more independent.

  29. Speaking of trade-offs, DH and I are actively discussing a change in our work-life balance when our oldest gets into middle school, precisely for the reasons some have raised in these comments. We do okay with balance, and we have good help with the kids, but it sure feels like having one of us around home more would make a big difference, particularly when the kids are in those middle school years. So we are talking about DH trying to go part-time or even leave his job to spend time at home and in more serious volunteer positions around town (kids sports, etc). I think we can manage it financially although it will obviously involve some trade-offs. One concern I have is his ability to get back into the workforce once the kids are older, since he’d be well into his fifties by then.

    Has anyone made a change like this when kids are older, as opposed to when they are little?

  30. ITA with MM, Austin and Scarlett. By middle school, maybe even late grade school, there was all kinds of complicated emotional stuff going on, and trust was a huge factor. Several men in his life were willing to be mentors, but he wasn’t ready to open up & trust that fast. I should be cranking up the “career” burner, am amazed at the resistance I’m finding in myself. It’s almost like I believe the “just a mousy little housewife” stereotype about myself.

    Rocky, I can’t picture the husband’s availability for professional travel being the most important contribution a sah wife makes to her family’s life. There’s that whole mental load—involving the kids, but also in meals and clean clothes regularly appearing in hubby’s life.

  31. I tend to agree with others about being around during late elementary and middle school years. This has been huge for me in terms of helping them with the hard stuff but also just enjoying them.

    I’m constantly amazed at how much our kids will talk to us about – I would NEVER have talked to my parents about these things – and I think a lot of it is that driving time together in the car.

    We are in the thick of basketball season right now, and I’ve turned down no fewer than 5 offers of carpools. Yes, it’s a pain to drive back and forth an additional 2 more times to school but that time with them is pretty key to me and DH.

  32. Has anyone made a change like this when kids are older, as opposed to when they are little?

    Cal Atty, I think Lauren did – she can elaborate or correct me on that.

  33. I’ve found the seasons of life model to be helpful. My particular situation was complicated both personally and professionally. Right now, I love my new job and the constraints (evening meetings with SE Asia) are real rather than manufactured by someone with an ego. I feel like I’m on the downhill, logistically.

    My favorite balance metaphor is “time, money and health- you can, to an extent, trade one for another, but those are the important life constraints.”

    I haven’t ever had friends as important figures in my life now certainly isn’t the time to change that. Perhaps that’s something I can focus on in another stage of life.

  34. I agree that middle and high school years are important. DH asked me if I wanted to look for another job but that means an impact to my flexibility. I have moved positions but remained with the same firm. Each time the learning curve of a new position means some impact to flexibility but I learn quick and go back to my old wicked flexibile ways. I plan to hang on in till DS is at the end of school. After that with just the one child at home it should become easier. It’s just been a long time working full time and being parent in charge.

  35. “I asked in part because I know two families where the husband grumbles at length about how they expected to have more money by now but noooo, the wife chose to stay home with the kids.”

    Oh, I’ve seen all combinations of that too. I have an acquaintance who complains constantly that her husbands won’t “let” her quit her job and be a SAHM. (meanwhile, not acknowledging that they bought their houses/cars with 2 incomes in mind and she doesn’t want to change her lifestyle at all to make up for it) And then husbands who are really resistant to their wives working because they really don’t want to have to pick up any more responsibilities with the kids/household.

  36. @Louise – That’s part of what makes me reluctant to move outside of my current firm. I can shift jobs to gain new experience, but the learning curve is much shorter, and I have a lot of capital built up here. Starting fresh at this stage in my career is going to me a really steep learning curve and a longer commitment to ramping up, which I recently decided was less appealing than a smaller change within the firm that allows me to keep more of my current flexibility.

  37. “Oh, I’ve seen all combinations of that too.”

    Me, too. One of my SAHM neighbors used to use our cleaning person but then they recently let her go. I got different stories from different people, but one version was that the husband thought the wife should clean the house since she wasn’t’ working outside the home. I sensed a little tension.

    I worked full throttle until my oldest was about to start middle school, and then I quit. Outsourcing childcare was a lot easier during the younger years. Later on we wanted for me to be more involved, for reasons mentioned already. There were not a lot of attractive PT work options available at that time.

  38. “I have an acquaintance who complains constantly that her husbands won’t “let” her quit her job and be a SAHM.”

    I find the plural husbands to be the most interesting aspect of this.

  39. Ugh, this is suddenly germane. I just learned today that our faculty member who is out with health issues won’t be back next semester, leaving us in limbo again. I will almost certainly get stuck with the overload since others did it last semester. That will mean two night courses a week instead of one. And I have a middle school kid who right now needs a parent at home after school very badly. As well as the niggling health issues that make taking this on very scary.

  40. “evening meetings with SE Asia”

    This brings back memories of many such calls. My employer at the time was very good about reciprocating flexibility on our part, e.g. to participate in those calls, with flexibility on its part.

  41. “That’s part of what makes me reluctant to move outside of my current firm. I can shift jobs to gain new experience, but the learning curve is much shorter, and I have a lot of capital built up here.”

    I’m guessing you also don’t give up accrued benefits when you change jobs within your current firm.

  42. WCE, even though you only saw them for short bursts, I’ve always had the impressions that friendships formed at math camp have been important to you.

    Ivy, yikes! That doesn’t increase my confidence level (and no, I don’t think
    I was on your mind when you wrote it, or that I’m the center of everything)

  43. My manager who works from home in another state was talking to me about going into the office more days a week (in general for our group, not me specifically). I made the appropriate soothing noises and said that some of our commutes were long and we could be more productive if we could work the extra hour and half instead of sitting in traffic. I absolutely had to distract him from putting a strict work in the office policy in place.
    (His wife works part time).

  44. MM, is it too late for you to influence your schedule for next semester? If you could drop off or pick up your fencer on your way to or from class, you’d get that time in the car Lark mentioned, which others have said in other conversations can lead to all sorts of connection and insights.

  45. S&M, my regular schedule is already set. And fencing happens on the other side of the bridge, miles away. If I am teaching a night course, I am not available to drive a kid around to anything

  46. The way my schedule is set up, on days I teach a night course, I am on campus from 7:30am (because I have morning courses and meetings) and leave at 8pm. I can’t go back and forth because it takes too long.

  47. Lark, it might be different with guys, but when I drove carpool for DD and her teammates, I heard a lot of interesting stuff between the girls. Other parents reported similar experiences,

  48. Mooshi, ugh, those are long days! I was imagining you leaving from home, so dropping her on the way, or that she’d be finishing up just around the time you come home (could you do that? When is she done?) I hope the long day on campus means there is another day when you don’t have to go in.

  49. I learn many fascinating things in the carpool. I think one of you (or several) mentioned in prior posts about staying quiet because they forget that I am in the car. It is true because they start texting if I participate in the conversation. For some reason, the religious school carpool kids speak to me, but I think it is because I let them blast their music and the other parents don’t let them do the same.

    I did stop working full time when my DD was in elementary school. My decision was driven by many factors, but it has worked out because I am around most of the time after school. By the way, I am amazed at how many working parents are around in the afternoons. It can be challenging to find child care for tweens and teens. The kids have to go in a million directions everyday after school, and they don’t want “baby-sitters” since they are old enough to be a babysitter. It is the role of the chauffeur, sounding board, and sometimes tutor that they need from 6th – 10th. Most of the kids in our town will start to get rides from driving juniors and seniors once they reach 11th grade.

    I still miss parts of my old life and that is probably why I am still in the city at least once or twice a week to meet former colleagues that are now friends. I still miss the income even though we are not suffering. There are many choices that we make to secure our financial future, and this would be much less of an issue if I was working full time.

    There are a couple of reasons why I am not rushing into this new opportunity. It is a start up, so there are the usual challenges with any start up. I would probably have more flexibility due to that fact, but they also work a lot of hours since there are so few people. I am hyper aware of my age and that I might have very, very few opportunities to get back into something like this as I get older.

  50. I remember a while back how people were talking about more flexibility coming with more experience and time on the job, etc. That’s happened in the last five years or so, but I also think there was a recent generation change as the oldest Gen X people came into management and the oldest face-time people retired.

    I think of myself as Gen X (irony! grunge! flannel!) but am on the tail end of it. My younger siblings are millenials.

  51. Lauren – since it is a startup, I think you will be in more of a position to work till the afternoon, be available for your DD after school and then log on again later in the evening. You will definitely have little downtime in the beginning but you can guage how it is going and go from there.

  52. @L – I agree that the really old school managers retiring has an effect. Also the technology is improving so rapidly to allow for more flexible work arrangements. My first 10 years in the office workforce, I had a big desktop and dial up Internet at home!

  53. Do you all feel like you and your spouses are on the same page regarding the work/life balance?

    Absolutely 100%

  54. Louise, I agree. The travel is the big issue since the two owners are not based in NY, and most of their banks/lawyers/back office are also in a different state. I still have time to decide because their dates and financing are so fluid.

  55. Lauren – my mother took a job in another state in the home country when I was 19 and my brother 12. The bank she worked at wouldn’t promote people if they didn’t accept a posting out of their home area. There had been grumblings from the men that the women wanted to be promoted but didn’t want to be transferred out of their home area and that was unfair. As a family, we managed. It was a very unusual situation and I got lots of questions regarding my parents marriage. It was hard for people to wrap their heads around “it’s for work, nothing else is going on”.

  56. Re: carpool – if I could do just the older kids or just the younger kids it would have the effect Finn and Lauren describe. But since for b’ball I would have to drive a mixture of 5th graders and 8th graders, what I find is the groups go completely silent when combined. Better for me to just have my 2 together, and then they chat the whole way with me or DH.

  57. Similar to others here, I also did not aggressively pursue opportunities that would impact my work family balance. I probably could have made it work, but I preferred less stress and more harmony in my personal life. The common patterns I saw around me were mothers with less demanding jobs that did not involve commutes to the city and/or mothers with strong family (usually parents but sometimes husbands) support to help with childcare. Rare was the mother who had a demanding job married to a husband with an equally demanding job. The logistics and the basic parenting challenges can be too overwhelming. I see this as a significant factor in the gender pay gap.

    The comments about “leaning out” remind me of Anne Marie Slaughter who kicked up a lot of dust with her article about quitting her state department job because she felt she needed to focus more on parenting her teenage sons.

    Three years ago, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote an article for The Atlantic about the difficulty of career advancement for professional women with children. “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” which has now grown into “Unfinished Business,” electrified readers. Slaughter’s criticisms of workplace policies and attitudes were not new, but her article had the force of her own belated awakening to the problem. A law professor, author and ­Princeton University dean (now president of the nonpartisan think tank New America), Slaughter had just spent two years as director of policy planning in the State Department under Hillary Clinton — a “dream job” that she initially hoped would lead to further advancement within the agency. But after two years of punishing work hours and a weekly commute between Washington and Princeton, where her husband was taking care of their two sons, Slaughter was surprised to find herself declining more State Department stints. Sometimes a job just couldn’t be squared with family responsibilities, she concluded. She returned to her full-time academic post at Princeton, which offered flexible hours more conducive to family life, and was more or less satisfied with her decision.

  58. “demanding job” – I think these days there are different kinds of demanding. Long hours working, long hours of face time, lots of work travel, 24/7 “on-call” responsiveness, etc. My job demands responsiveness* but thankfully less face time now (I usually go in 2 days), and DH’s jobs demand responsiveness and long hours working but absolutely no face time, and neither of us has any significant travel. I think the flexibility in terms of face time** is the #1 reason why both of us have continued to work at a relatively high level.

    *Within reason. I don’t respond to clients on a weekend as a rule, or after 5 if I have an activity after work, and usually not Fridays either, and I’ll only respond to colleagues on a weekend if it is quick and I am catching up while watching Netflix on a Sunday night, for example.

    **Also, other people in the office have stopped noticing/remarking (negatively) if/when I’m not in the office. I used to get those comments fairly frequently, especially 8 years ago when #2 was a baby. Now I can come in at 10:30 and leave at 2 and nobody cares as long as my hours/collections are good. It also helps to have an office in the back corner of the building!

  59. Now I can come in at 10:30 and leave at 2 and nobody cares as long as my hours/collections are good.

    That’s a big advantage to a job where you are directly generating revenue. Bosses are much more accepting of flexible arrangements when you can show very clearly that it is not affecting the bottom line, and maybe even helping it. When you are working a back office job, it can be very difficult to show that your productivity hasn’t declined.

    “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,”

    I’ve said this a million times: men have never had it all either. The difference is that traditionally when the work/family conflicts arose, men tended to chose work and women tended to choose family. This is slowly changing as more men become “involved parents” and primary caregivers, but the tendencies are still there. As has been written in various articles, changes on the homefront will spur more changes in the workplace.

  60. The hardest aspect of the mid career choice to exit the workforce for an extended time is that it is rarely convenient to re enter at a high professional level down the road even if such an opportunity becomes available. If it isn’t the final teen years, it is aging parents, or the previously freed up spouses continuing career demands. And even if there is a window in the late 50s after the domestic schedule eases up and there is still a professional opportunity , the many year principal breadwinning spouse may be ready for retirement or wind down and doesn’t want to be constrained from relocation or travel or seasonal golf by the other spouses new work or mega volunteer time commitment.

  61. I have noticed a change in the younger men picking up more family responsibilities. A senior manager has young kids and he took all his paternity leave. Recently when his child was sick he wasn’t available period. Even at less senior levels there is more openness about life outside work. The single people have their dogs that they need to go home to (people need to get home to walk their dogs).

  62. “I’ve said this a million times: men have never had it all either. The difference is that traditionally when the work/family conflicts arose, men tended to chose work and women tended to choose family. This is slowly changing as more men become “involved parents” and primary caregivers, but the tendencies are still there. As has been written in various articles, changes on the homefront will spur more changes in the workplace.”

    I agree. Also, IIRC, the deal with Ann Slaughter was that they made a deal where her husband was the more active parent with the less demanding job, but then it turned out that she didn’t actually like that arrangement. once she tried it. I’m not criticizing her feelings – but I don’t think it was as simple as “you can’t have it all” because she did have an active, engaged partner who was tending the “family” burner. I think that is key. DH has a job without flexibility, but also with regular hours, and he is a much more active parent than many dads in dual-income households. But I cede a lot to him, happily. I think it is often very hard for women to cede parenting responsibility. Maybe moreso than it is for men to cede being the bigger earner.

  63. Men can’t have it all either, and have been expected to choose work? Yes, but their reception when they ducked into parenting was vastly different than if it was possible for a sahm to duck into work. Think of kids running into daddy’s arms at the end of the day, praise for the guy changing his kid’s diaper, dad’s breakfasts at school, and then try to find parallels in work if a woman who has chosen family as her main role.

  64. Also, IIRC, the deal with Ann Slaughter was that they made a deal where her husband was the more active parent with the less demanding job, but then it turned out that she didn’t actually like that arrangement. once she tried it.

    Right – she had the idea set up to have the high-powered career and realized it wasn’t what she wanted. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I think it is often very hard for women to cede parenting responsibility.

    I agree completely.

  65. Has anyone had issues with Google flights showing fares that aren’t available? It keeps showing fares for Sydney-Auckland that look good, and then when I click through to book (following the links from there to the airline’s site), the fares are significantly higher. I know fares can change quickly, but this has happened enough times that I don’t think it’s an issue of a quick fare change every time.

  66. Denver, I should’ve also said to scroll down to “What to do when cheap flights can’t be booked through Google Flights (“Ghosting”)” in that article. Hope it helps!

  67. S&M, but they still weren’t “involved parents”. As you said, they were just “ducking into parenting”. The kids would run into Daddy’s arms because that was the hour they could see him before they had to go to bed. Dad didn’t go to school events during the day (I’ve never heard of dad’s breakfasts) because he would have been laughed out of his job if he asked. Dad didn’t help with homework or take the kids to doctor’s appointments or go to school conferences because he was working.

    It was hard (and still is) for a SAHM to go back to work because the workplace was designed for people (mostly men) who were fully committed, didn’t take time off for sick kids or to go to school conferences, could work late or travel on the spur of the moment, etc. The workplace wasn’t welcoming to anyone who wanted flexibility, men or women. It was just that women were the ones asking for it first.

  68. Denver, right, they weren’t involved parents, but had the possibility of ducking in, and were lauded for doing so, and were able to enjoy their kids. It isn’t just the opposite way around for a sahm, because there isn’t really a way to “duck in” to work (well, maybe dabbling at a hobby/job), and if/when they went back to work, they were looked down on by the “moms belong at home” types for abandoning their kids and at work, because they were out of the loop. Very unequal.

  69. A couple comments.

    DH and I have split parenting/household duties fairly evenly (obviously at a given time that may not be true depending on who is particularly slammed). This has hurt DH career wise as he hasn’t made partner – and all the other male partners have either not had kids or had wives who stayed home fulltime. It will be interesting to see how his firm (civil/structural engineers) evolve as I get the sense that some of the younger male engineers are more hands on parents. And in general, DH feels like the younger staff are less willing to put in overtime to meet a deadline (I haven’t had this experience in my office).

    I haven’t wanted to achieve the equivalent of partner in my career – I would need to put in both more hours and more networking and ambition and I don’t feel like putting my energy towards that. I have an interesting career with work that matters so in general I’m reasonably happy with where I am. Both DH and I both probably consistently work about 50 hours a week. We would both like it to be less. Neither one of us has to travel much. And we both have some flexibility if we need to come in late or leave early. The focus is on getting the work done – not showing that you’re in the office from 8 – 5.

    I have a good friend who due to divorce is having to re-enter the workforce after being out of it for almost 20 years. She’s doing an intensive 3 month computer programming course (she was in tech 20 years ago). I sometimes wonder when women make the decision to stay home full time if they realize how hard it may be to re-enter the work force. Especially the longer they are out of it. There’s no right decision – but there are definitely tradeoffs. And when the woman stays home, I feel like she’s the one more likely to be negatively affected by the tradeoffs if her partner unexpectedly dies (happened to a couple women I know) or gets a divorce.

  70. Austin Mom If your child is the type to wash her delicates in the sink and drape them over curtain rails etc you might consider silk long John’s. I swear by them If she throws everything in the washing machine several 2 packs of cuddleduds.

    I want to give something nice to DH for his Jan bday, but then I start to get into the mode of wanting a nice gift from him on my bday 9 mos later. So No gifts except the occasional small spontaneous is probably best. I got legos and Hawaii garb for the grandkids all of whom who celebrate Xmas.

  71. “Rare was the mother who had a demanding job married to a husband with an equally demanding job.”

    I suppose that makes DW rare. Our job demands have been quite similar, although mine have tended to be more flexible, or perhaps I was just more willing to push the flexibility envelope.

  72. “I sometimes wonder when women make the decision to stay home full time if they realize how hard it may be to re-enter the work force.”

    DW realized it, and that was a major factor in her deciding not to be a SAHM. I similarly decided not to be a SAHD.

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