Is Work-Life Balance Impossible for Working Mothers?
Balance. It's a myth. And working women are finally willing to say it.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, had a revealing interview for PBS and AOL, where she said as a mother and professional you give up on the idea of balance.
"So there's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance," said Sandberg, summing up what many working women think everyday.
You would think that she said something completely earth-shattering when she admitted that she leaves work at 5:30 p.m. everyday to have dinner with her kids. She hid the fact internally by staying up later and waking earlier to send emails. Now that she is comfortable in a position of influence, she is saying it out loud to encourage other working parents to do the same.
I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I'm home for dinner with my kids at 6:00, and interestingly, I've been doing that since I had kids. I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it's not until the last year, two years that I'm brave enough to talk about it publicly. Now I certainly wouldn't lie, but I wasn't running around giving speeches on it.
As an executive, Sandberg has more leeway to set her own hours and to be a role model to other women and men in the company. Still, it's nice to know that at one of the world's richest and innovative companies, a woman is trying to change corporate culture.
She also says that the most important thing is to marry the right person. She even says that the numbers show that marrying another woman may be the right answer when it comes to chore-sharing:
"The most important thing -- and I've said it a hundred times and I'll say it a hundred times -- if you marry a man, marry the right one," she said. "If you can marry a woman, that's better because the split between two women in the home is pretty even, the data shows."
(Sandberg's husband heads up Survey Monkey, so he's no slouch in the work department either.)
Liz Mundy, author of The Richer Sex, says that having a powerful woman in the house does mean the chores are shared more equally, in fact she says that when the husband stays home and the woman works the man does more of the housework.
Mundy says that the balance is starting to shift towards women being the major breadwinners and that will slowly remake our culture.
For many working moms, that shift may feel glacial. Most women I know feel immense guilt about both home and work, which Sandberg acknowledges may be a female phenomenon.
"I feel guilty when my son says, 'Mommy, put down the BlackBerry, talk to me' and that happens far too much. I think all women feel guilty. I think what's interesting is I don't know many men who feel guilty," Sandberg said. "I don't know a lot of men who feel guilty for working full time, it's expected that they'll work full time...I wonder if there were more shared responsibility if more men would feel guilty too and women would feel less of it."
But Mundy says we don't have to wait too much longer. Women are remaking the workforce and in doing so are re-balancing the home responsibilities too, which is good for both men and women.
Let's hope we throw out the idea of balance once and for all, and never hear another journalist ask a woman "How does she do it all?"
What do you think? Is the idea of balance outdated? How do you work out your home and work responsibilities?