Some family events this past weekend caused me to reflect again on work/life choices — this time on the choices of three generations in my family.
Like most in their generation, my parents had a traditional marriage, in which the husband worked for pay and the wife worked at home. My father was a workaholic, leaving for the office before dawn each day. He was usually home for dinner, but worked a lot on evenings and weekends, and traveled frequently for his job. My mother took care of house and kids, by herself when she had to.
My husband’s parents had a situation like my parents, except they lived in a smaller town and my father-in-law could come home for lunch each day. But the realms of husband’s and wife’s responsibilities were as separate as in my family.
Like many in our generation, my husband and I struggled to find a path where we both worked and both cared for the household. We had professional jobs in the same field, and each stayed with our firms for an entire career.
We divided childcare and home responsibilities in ways that made sense to us. We argued over who worked more, or didn’t do their share of chores. We scrambled to find time for everything, and often our time together was the first thing to go. But somehow managed to stay married till our children were grown and life returned to some semblance of sanity.
Our young adult children are now launched in their careers. I see each of them working long hours. They have jobs they like, but they aren’t wedded to them. Each talks about moving on in a few years; whether they will or not, remains to be seen. And neither as yet has a spouse or children, nor prospects of changing marital status soon.
Three generations, three models, three sets of choices. The models don’t separate by generations – people in each generation have chosen each model. There is no right way to manage work and life. After more than thirty years of trying to balance work and life, I don’t even think of it as work and life anymore; it’s simply life.
What I encourage my children to do – and what I encouraged younger employees that I mentored to do – is to make their choices consciously, and to re-think those choices regularly.
And so I encourage you, too, to make conscious choices. Whatever you choose, make it a life that suits your values and leaves room for the discretionary things in life that are important to you.
A few months ago, Dr. Donald E. Wetmore published a post on AMA Net that listed seven things NOT to ignore in your work life balance:
- your health
- your family time
- your financial health
- your intellectual development
- your social contacts
- your career path
- your spirituality
That’s a pretty good list, and fits well with the areas mentioned in the book Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women, by Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott, which I have found helpful for self-assessment.
Where in your life do you need more balance?