Why work-life balance is perceived as an issue for working women only?
Finding a balance between demands of work and family is the most important discussion point among working women no matter at which level of the career she is in. More and more women are coming out of closet to talk out loud regarding the choices we make while pursuing our career demands and as a new mothers or even as a not so new mothers. Most successful working women like Sheryl Sandberg and Indra Nooyi have provided their perspectives on work and life balance and how it is necessary to lean in, cope and sometime find cheats way to do it all. A famous book called I Don't Know How She Does It The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson, has discussed all the work-life dilemma of a senior working woman in hilarious and truthful manner. The movie based on this book where Sarah Jessica Parker has aptly played the role can bring us very close to the daily juggle any woman who wants to do well at her salaried job too. Women have done very well to acknowledge their roles at home, they have showcased and discussed the guilt they go through when they struggle and have come up with ideas to find the balance between the two through short term breaks, added help, and more drudgery and so on. They struggle and some-times opt out too but it is constantly a topic under discussion for women. For high performing men, their home front has always remained a silent one in their work space. In the same work space where women talk a lot about their spouses and children, men keep quite. They feel pressurized as they have not seen their seniors to do that. I have talked with many high level male executives on work-life balance and have got the answer that work needs to be chosen by them in case of conflict, home can be looked after (read wife, does not matter if she is in high position too; and they can afford paid help too. The same is observed among most males says this article. Most men never feel the need of being with the kids for longer time or on daily basis. For them a 10 minute of bedtime ritual or every day pick and drop of the kid to and from school bus is good time to connect. They don’t want more details from children and they don’t dwell on guilty.
Also most high performing male executives have stay at home spouses and that gives them the freedom to focus on work only, for women the high performers on the other hand mostly have busier spouses so the ball of work-life balance conflict remains in their court only.
Moving down the career ladder among mid level employees, the work-life balance almost is a common issue irrespective of gender barriers. It is common to see both men and women running out of meetings at 6 pm to pick the kids from day care or after school programs. It is common to find strong involvement among men too in raising kids and spending time with kids while making dinner or baking and other chores. Being in middle level at career these men mostly have their wives working but cannot afford to have paid help to a large extent. Also younger men are open to accept more flexible jobs which enable them to find more balance between work and life. With increasing salaries that women are bringing with them, they are giving men more opportunity to take little easy at work and dwell more in their hobbies or family time. These men also talk about work pressure and how they make time for life.
Although women are the ones who talk about work-life conflict more often, there is a ray of hope that in coming decades both men and women will have the equal share of the pie called “work life balance”.