Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teaching the Balance

I caught this NPR show on the way into work yesterday. The guests for the show discuss a module of a Women Entrepreneurs Class that teaches about work/life balance. I thought this was interesting that the issue would be brought out into the open this way. The thing that struck me the most was the ending comment when the host asked what one piece of advice would they give to women to help them achieve balance. Both Leslie Morgan Steiner and Kathy Korman Frey said, "Talk to your spouses early on, before it's an issue and work out exactly how you're going to balance." I think that's excellent advice, advice I didn't follow. Hell, I grew up in the era of "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let him forget he's the man." The very idea that we would discuss who stays home with sick kids, what to do for career moves, etc. was foreign to me. We did talk about these things when they arose, but by then, we were in crisis mode. As either of us have gotten frustrated with some aspect of the balance of work and life (usually it's me), we've discussed it and worked something out. Certainly, you can't anticipate every little thing that's going to happen, but there are lots of things you can. I do wish we'd sat down and said, "Okay, what are we going to do when you're up for a career move? What if I'm up for a career move?" Instead, we both made assumptions. Early on, for example, I made an assumption about when Mr. Geeky would finish grad school. When that dragged on longer than anticipated, I was left in a limbo state, careerwise. While in that state, I had my first kid, but I think it would have been better if we'd took a hard look and maybe set some real deadlines about when we (or just one of us) would move on. There were opportunities I could have taken if we'd set a real timeline instead of playing it by ear.

The other thing the guests noted was that in other contexts (not the class, since it's marketed specifically to women), they've noticed many more men showing up to hear about work/life balance. They noted that while the job of being a mother has changed in the last few decades, the job of being a father has changed even more dramatically. Fathers are now expected to and want to be involved in their kids' lives, so they're feeling the pull of family life and the tension that creates with their work life more than ever. Certainly this creates an opportunity to have those conversations about how to balance.

I'm curious if any of you out there have had these conversations with your spouses or if, like me, you tend to go with the flow. Is it better to have the converation or not?
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