I am so tired of men telling me about work-life balance for women. You don’t know. Stop talking about it. I’ve had this discussion over and over again for the past seven years, and it’s the reason I developed The Women’s Code.
In theory, men and women experience the same issues when trying to find their work-life balances, but the realities and the numbers say it isn’t so. There is a major difference in the ways women and men should approach the topic of work-life balance.
For men, work-life balance means advancing in their jobs as quickly as possible in order to become good providers and maintain a satisfying lifestyle for their families. And now more than ever, they are expected to be sensitive to all the individual needs of their family members, have unlimited patience, and consciously ‘work’ on being a good dad and partner. The nurturing aspects of relationships don’t come easily for most men, and that’s why I believe it can be difficult for men to relax at home.
When men want to let their guards down and decompress, they need to get out of the house. So, they go hang out with their buddies because, under the men’s code, there is no pressure amongst men other than to slap each other’s backs and engage in a bit of grunting here and there. If two men disagree, one tells the other that he sucks, they get into it, they get over it, and then they buy each other a beer. Being with “the guys” is easy for a man. (Okay, okay…I am over-simplifying male relationships, but I think you get the idea.)
Hence, work-life balance for men is different than for women. I’m certainly not judging it; I am simply stating what I see.
For the record, I love men.
For women, work-life balance is an entirely different story. Women are the glue of our families and the nurturers. The information we’ve been receiving since the beginning of time is that being a mom is a full time job. And it is. Some women who are very family-oriented (like my sister) find it easy to choose to stay home and raise their children. But, once the kids move out, many stay-at-home moms experience a midlife renaissance and suddenly are ready to experience what they haven’t had before—a life outside the home.
For other women (like me) who either didn’t have a choice to be the provider, or who wanted a career and a family, we have a dual role of being moneymakers and primary caregivers. According to the Pew Research Centre, 40% of mothers are the primary or sole income earners in their households. But that’s not all. There is another role that is piling huge stress onto women: 66% of the 65.7 million unpaid caregivers in the United States who care for someone who is ill, disabled, or aged are women.
In addition to these caretaking and financial responsibilities, women are still primarily responsible for household chores, planning social functions, being active with the PTA, doing the shopping, etc. The list goes on.
Women need much more support than we are currently getting during our defining years (ages 25-45). Like men, we also need ways to alleviate our pressures. I’ve made a simple list of what I consider are the most important things that will make it easier for women to find their balance:
- We must stop judging a woman’s choice. At-home, at-work, or both, all of us are equally valuable. We need voices from all sides of the conversation.
- Companies should provide better ongoing leadership programs for women . We need help and role models so we can figure out how to prioritize and balance all the demands placed on us.
- We need better and more affordable childcare for working women, and corporate practices that don’t penalize us when our kids are sick. Workdays spent worrying about our kids are not as productive as they could be.
- Men need to stop making this our problem and thinking of us as crazy bitches who overcomplicate issues. The kids we are talking about are OUR kids. They are part of OUR society. Let’s work together for their sakes.
- Women must learn to support other women more. With our heavy workloads at home and the office, we need to form a stronger sisterhood and rally for each other. This is why I titled one of my programs “The Bitch and Bully-Free Office.”
It doesn’t matter to me if you call it finding “balance” or “harmony” or some other fancy term, the issue remains the same—women need more outside help.
Can we please get started now and implement workplace programs that will help working women figure out how to be trailblazers without burning out? Can women stop being so catty and competitive with each other? What are you going to do to help?