Buckle up, because I am sharing something that made my blood boil! Christine, one of my team members, sent me a link to this article from the Daily Mail. The male author claims that, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in the UK, 13% of women strongly agree they have achieved work-life balance, and 48% of them said the balance in their lives is ‘fine’. For the men, 53% said the balance in their lives is good, whereas 31% of men said they do not have their work-life in balance. The author quotes the key sentence in this article from the ONS assessment, which states “Men are less likely than women to agree or agree strongly that they achieve the right balance.”
While it is entirely possible that, in opinions of work-life balance, women in the UK are different from women in the US—or perhaps UK men are a bunch of complainers—frankly, I don’t believe these numbers show an accurate picture of what I encounter in my daily work of helping women find work-life balance.
My first argument is that an answer depends on how a question is asked. I find there is a huge difference in responses if I ask my live audience who is ‘truly happy’ versus who is ‘fine’ with what they have. Many more women will raise their hands in response to ‘fine’ than to ‘truly happy’.
My second argument, which is the reason this article made me so upset, is men’s work-life balance is not part of the discussion we are having about women wanting—and needing—to find better balance in their lives. Why? Because after feminism liberated us, women have had only fifty years to figure out how to make everything work. Fifty years compared to thousands of years that men have been in charge is hardly enough time for us to allow this important discussion to turn back to men. And to be honest, I don’t care how much men are suffering from the lack of attention. This is not about them, this is about us.
Women are the family glue, the oil in the engine, the mothers, and the caretakers. We hold it together. But, what we also want is to have our own identities, which may include a thriving career or time to become healthier. And we want to find a way to do it all that doesn’t kill us. Of course, we don’t want our families and relationships to suffer as a result of our personal wants. And too often women feel guilty when they want more. While men can be (and often are) supportive, they don’t know how to help us because we ourselves don’t know what we need. That is why women are having this conversation with each other and in our communities. We realize we need each other to help define what we are looking for, and to get it without looking or feeling selfish and guilty.
When a woman says she is ‘fine’, it does not mean she is ‘happy’. It means she is fine. For me, and many of you, being fine is not enough anymore. We want to find a work-life balance that makes us happy (not fine.) We want more, but we are also realistic about how we can achieve it. That is why I created a tool—the time-based concept called ego-RHYTHM®—to show women across the world that it is possible to find work-life balance over time instead of all at once. It is possible to have it all.
Most men want to support their wives and partners because they know a Happy Woman means a Happy World. But, I ask that we keep the discussion focused on women for now until we have a better handle on how to find our balance. And when we do, then we can shift the discussion to include men who are not ‘fine’ or ‘happy.’ Right now, we need to find answers and solutions for ourselves first, and I know it won’t take us thousands of years.