Wednesday 25 April 2007

Work/Life Balance - A Family Issue

The Work/Life Balance is not a woman's issue. It is a people issue.

I am employed full-time at a large UK energy and utility company. I get flex-time in my working hours and location. The idea is I have a job to do with clear measurable objectives. I do what it takes to get the job done.

Marc run his own business from our home. He has an office in the garage. But running your own business doesn't have the flexibility you might think. He works hard and long hours trying to make his customers happy.

When we take annual leave (vacation), I get paid. He doesn't. When one of the children is sick, I can usually work from home or take the day off. He has to let a client down or re-arrange his schedule. The idea is he can start his day when he decides to start his day.

We have an ongoing conversation about whose career is more important. If I submit myself totally and completely to my career I could climb the ladder and make more money. If Marc succumbed to the demands of all his clients, he could build his small business into a massive enterprise. But both of us can't do this. We have children to raise. And our children are only small once. They need us and we've made a commitment to them. This commitment is our time and once spent you can't get it back.

So I start work at a silly hour in the morning. Marc gets the children up, feeds them their breakfast and dresses them for the day. He does the school and child minder drop offs. I then leave work at 3 pm and do the pick ups. I take Abigail to her ballet class and wait for Seb to finish his judo class. I then get dinner on the table. We've arranged ride shares on the days the schedules collide. I have times when I can't leave the office at 3 and Marc schedules his appointments around these. We have a child minder who supports us when it all goes horribly wrong.

I still have had to leave in the middle of meetings that have run over schedule. Or declined meeting invites and asked for earlier times. I make calls to my North American colleagues in the evening. I've sat in on conference calls whilst making dinner and overseeing my son's homework efforts. I've sifted through a stack of email well into the night.

But the fact is we both make trade offs. We both would like to devote ourselves to our children. But financial demands mean we can't. We would both like to devote ourselves to our careers. But we have a beautiful family and simply don't wish to turn this over to child care professionals. I didn't have children so someone else could raise them.

Every day is a juggling act for both of us. Sometimes we drop balls. Sometimes it feels like we are in a circus. And other times it is sheer magic.

1 comment:

Janell said...

In my humble opinion, the most important phrase in this whole essay is, "And our children are only small once." Savor it. Live it. You're career and your business will always be there, but parenting them when they are small is very temporary.
ps - give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing this.