No matter where we are in our careers, we often talk about the importance of balance, an idea that conjures images of lotus poses and zen gardens. We talk about managing stress and finding time for sleep, meditation, friends, and fun amid 60-hour work weeks. You know, balance.
But for those of us fortunate enough to enter the ranks of parenthood, balance becomes a seemingly unattainable ideal. We hear the messages telling us we can do it all, but if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we know something has got to give. There simply are not enough hours in the day to care of ourselves, be the parents we aspire to be, be fully present with our partners, and continue to excel in demanding careers.
While parenthood requires sacrifice, what we’re seeking shouldn’t be impossible. If we change our expectations and acknowledge that professionals and entrepreneurs have families, can we stop being so fixated on balance and instead turn our attention toward solutions that allow us to accomplish more of what we need and want?
The work-family conflict is a challenge that isn’t going away. If we want strong families and a thriving economy, we need to face it head-on. We need to shift to a model of work-life integration—not just in theory, but in practice.
The Work-Family Conflict
Consider this; 56% of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say juggling work and family is hard. When you also take into account that 33% of parents say they aren’t spending enough time with their kids, we are forced to acknowledge that this is about more than the need for more affordable childcare (though that would be nice).
To accommodate their needs their own way, millennials (both men and women) are choosing not to lean in, but to walk away. They’re going to new companies, and they’re choosing to become freelance workers or small business owners. In fact, it’s estimated that 40% of U.S. workers will be freelance or independent by 2020.
After I had my son, I had to make a choice. While I was ready to fully embrace my new role as a mother, I didn’t want to abandon my career. I no longer cared about getting to the next rung on the corporate ladder, but I certainly intended to use the skills I’d gained.
Amber Anderson is the founder & CEO of MORE, a community that helps you scale your business without sacrificing time with your family.
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