Balance is an eternal struggle

images-1One of the things that I always loved about Europe is that they always seem to put their lust for living ahead of work.  For decades it appeared to work but as the world is seeing now that their way of life was based on smoke and mirrors.  Yet there is still something about the lust for family and the balance of life/work in Europe that although not perfect does leave us with the desire to figure out what is the balance there.

Maternity leave is starting to create some conversation as large companies are changing the rules to benefit young families so that they do not have to choose between work and family.  That is a very good thing.  The addition of universal health care would be a huge added bonus.  If we all embraced the concept of universal child care instead of it falling directly on the backs of families struggling to work and watch their kids the stress level of most young parents might go down.

Bain & Co just put out a study that they did asking 1500 MBA’s and graduate students about their careers and obstacles ahead.  What was great to see is that men are almost equal to women with the desire to raise their families as equals to their partners.  The fear is how are you able to be a supportive parent/partner and be successful in your career at the same time.  You could be if there were support systems for families such as universal childcare mixed with the creation of cultures that applaud family first.

The more conversation about this topic creates change.  Preparing people with strategies to do this through classes in higher education that also talk about being efficient with your time could be a step forward.  There is something between the balance of working hard and playing hard and being a present partner and parent that might be easier in the next decade.  When a company starts rewarding people for going to their kids soccer games or working from home when their kid is sick or forcing people to take vacation what will be realized is that people become better employees because they are happier having found a healthy balance for their minds and families.

Comments (Archived):

  1. drmarasmith

    Last sentence is SPOT ON! There also needs to be good modeling and mentoring around work fluidity -( I prefer that to balance because it isn’t static) and happiness. Showing young people entering the work force that working toward making family a priority is not a cause for worry or concern. I would also add bodies to the last sentence – as anything healthy requires time, effort and attention to being active as well. As always, thank you Joanne for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Finding the time to take care ourselves is key. For sure

  2. pointsnfigures

    I like Europe but I don’t envy them. I’d prefer to remember why America exists. Yes, we don’t have as many holidays etc, but I prefer the freedom to choose. I do think that having a conversation around work/life balance is appropriate, but I don’t want the government to legislate it. Let each individual company decide for itself. Employees will sort.

    1. LE

      Truth is we are actually getting soft and lazy with our young people and going in the direction of Europe as it is. Not like it as when I (or you or Joanne) were growing up. I worked in the summer, every summer, and didn’t do half of the things that young kids do today. Ditto during college and high school. The money that I made helped me start my first business. Doing fun things was not even something that would have been considered (by my parents) back then. It was all about preparing for the future, not having fun experiences which today are justified by some different metric of value that will somehow help a child later in life.

      1. pointsnfigures

        I cannot speak for anyone but myself. My wife and I sent our kids to camp. When they went to college, they worked as camp counselors. We made them earn money in the summer. We didn’t “set” them up with jobs. They had to find them. One wanted to go to Shanghai, so she found an apartment, a job, and scrounged the money through working and grants to go. Didn’t cost me a penny. The other one just quit her 9-5 job and is supporting herself with her own photography business. http://www.carolineelizabet… They live together in Old Town and are off the payroll.I was always of the mind to teach my kids the responsibility that comes with choice. We wanted them to be scrappy and they are. Of course, that means sometimes they will push my buttons but that’s okay!I’d move away from Chicago and hang out on a farm half the year except they live here. If they ever have kids, I hope they are able to have a choice. That’s all you can ask for.

        1. LE

          Your daughter’s work is really nice. I did photography in high school and college (as I have probably mentioned at and had a darkroom (black and white) in my basement. I got started doing catalog photography (I had some lights and backdrops) and was self taught. I also did photography for lawyers (personal injury work) and a few live events (which I did not like doing). I miss the darkroom. Doing photography was what allowed me to move into the first business that I started out of college (printing). Was close enough that I was able to wing that (with no knowledge of that industry at all).My daughters also worked as camp counselors. One daughter happened to work for a jewish camp, spent time overseas (in Israel) and what she did led to her first after college job and she is now living in NYC. The other daughter I told her (she is still in college) to get a real summer job so she would have a leg up when graduating. So this last summer instead of camp she worked for a small IB firm in NYC. [1] I felt she already had enough of that camp experience. By all measure it appears it was the right choice they have given her some work during the school year as well.[1] To be honest she got that job because she went on a cruise with my ex wife’s new family and a lawyer who did work for the IB firm who was an uncle gave her the contact. So she interviewed but it was an easy job to get. The only credit I get is telling her to not do camp and pushing her to take the job when it was offered. (Which she is glad for now).

          1. pointsnfigures

            Yup, my kids only did camp gig between fresh-soph yr. Then they got “real jobs”. I wasn’t that smart. I worked construction and sold women’s shoes. Breaking up concrete in July/August and hauling it to the dump will make you long for an office

  3. Kristin Bryan

    As a working mom of four I completely appreciate your comments on this subject. I think it’s important to listen, watch and learn from other cultures, applying those successful parameters around balance that are so vital to a healthy, happy family. Well said!

  4. LE

    Maternity leave is starting to create some conversation as large companies are changing the rules to benefit young families so that they do not have to choose between work and family. That is a very good thing. The addition of universal health care would be a huge added bonus. If we all embraced the concept of universal child care instead of it falling directly on the backs of families struggling to work and watch their kids the stress level of most young parents might go down.”That is a very good thing. ” – Not if you run a traditional small business it isn’t.The problem with both maternity leave and universal child care (even if only at large companies since it’s a non-starter pretty much at small companies) is that it creates an even greater disadvantage for small businesses particular those that aren’t venture or angel funded. (Because employees will go where the most benefits are and might going forward consider lack of a certain benefit to be a non-starter as only one reason).While large businesses have always had advantages over small businesses obviously (let’s face it a pharmaceutical company in Princeton can offer certain things that a wholesale distributor can’t) and startups by way of funding (and age of employees) also have advantages, unfortunately these potentially “required” perks are even more of a step in the direction of making things unattractive to work at a “traditional” small business. Which could grow to a large business. And smb quite frankly makes up the majority of businesses out there in one form or another. The plumbing supply house, the contractor, the small restaurant, your accountant, your sole or 2 partner law firm etc.If you are running a “small” business it’s typical to have 1 or 3 key people. You simply can’t afford to have them leave on maternity or paternity leave. [1] There are no replacements, your business and your clients will suffer. It was hard enough to find these people in the first place.[1] Example: I have a software contractor that does work for me. I pay him every month so he is “on call”. Last year I needed an important change done. He told me (and he is a small business) that the one guy who could do the work that I needed was on “paternity” leave. How do you think that I felt about that? It put me in a bind and it made me reevaluate the relationship that I had. Had he been a larger business in theory there would have been multiple people that could have done this work. But not in this small business.

  5. panterosa,

    Right On. Universal Health Care. Universal Child Care. Two things which separately and together have worked better than the individual patchwork of other things which return families back to “their” job of being families. Stress is so deeply damaging, most especially for the very young.