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Katherine Lewis

Divining the Secrets of Work-Life Balance

By May 17, 2010

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At my high school reunion this past weekend, I had multiple conversations with old friends about the challenges we all face in finding work-life balance while raising young children and building our careers. Maybe it's because work-life balance is an obsession of mine, but it seemed that almost every classmate (and spouse) I spoke to struggled with the always-on demands of an employer or clients.

The exception, of course, were those classmates who had quit paid work and devoted all their time to caring for their children. While I respect that choice, I wish it didn't have to be so all or nothing. I talked to moms and dads alike who wished they could cut back to part-time hours, turn off the BlackBerry for a few hours or even see their kids at dinner time on a regular basis. Why is our modern workplace so demanding of employees?

I certainly don't have all the work-life balance secrets, but in my last seven years covering the work-life beat I've discovered a few universal truths. As many great flex-work programs as there are out there, ultimately it comes down to you, your priorities and what you're willing to sacrifice in order to be present for your family.

Do you have an "if only" dream that you think would solve your work-life balance woes? Why not make today the first day in your journey to that ideal?

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Comments
May 18, 2010 at 5:55 pm
(1) Jon Prial says:

As the husband half of two working parents, I used to tell my wife “as soon as we get through (fill in the blank), things will get easier”. We quickly realized that after you get through one thing, there is another, and another. Work and Life are constantly being challenged. It’s take prioritization with balance over short term needs (who covers a sick child today) and long term needs (which job/career needs what type of focus). It is never easy but with good communications and a strong partnership most of what is desired can be achieved.

(For single parents, a larger support network is definitely required).

May 19, 2010 at 7:56 am
(2) Ellen Delap says:

It is really true about priorities! It is about handling interruptions, managing your day and ROI if you a a worker bee or stay at home. Take time to get clear on what you want for you and your family and it makes is easier to prioritize.

May 19, 2010 at 11:04 am
(3) Gwenn Rosener says:

As one of the founders of Flexforce Professionals, a niche recruiting company focused exclusively on placing part-time professionals (mostly working moms) in meaningful part-time jobs, some of the work-life success stories we’re seeing are professional women who leave the workforce to devote time to raising kids and managing the household, but then return to the workforce on a part-time basis when the kids are in a good place (late elementary school, middle school, etc). They’ve had a good dose of immersing themselves in child rearing and shedding the balancing-act guilt. Because of the time they’ve spent getting to know their children and the needs of their families, when they return to work they know exactly what they can handle and are cautious about maintaining a healthy balance. When they are looking to reenter the workforce, they have a security about them, knowing that they got in touch with their priorities (as Katherine says) and made the tough decisions to change their lives to address those priorities. While the jobs they are taking are far from the jobs they had when they left the workforce (the sacrifice), many of them end up finding high-value jobs that leverage their talents and provide opportunities for them to grow with a company at a pace they can manage. Sequencing and ramping the career up and down with the demands of child rearing and family is one way to help achieve work-life balance. Granted, it is not available to all. But for those who have the economic means and support to do so, it is an option that takes looking at the long term, understanding your priorities, and having confidence in yourself that you can weather the transitions…

May 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm
(4) A S says:

I had a friend who would not do anything else (including checking personal email) at work, not much chatting other than at lunch hour etc. But she would also not worry about work after hours. She would get everything done efficiently at work and unless there was some pressing reason, she would not log in or work in the evenings. The evenings and weekends were her family’s. I have been trying to implement that and have mostly succeeded, maybe the employers are only as demanding as we let them be

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