As the husband of a successful female CEO and mother, I can tell you I have met Wonder Woman. From her demanding schedule to spending weeks overseas on business, her life is non-stop, to say the least.
Her income supports our family and, in turn, I support her by caring for our two children and managing our household. Still, I realize that this type of arrangement isn’t typical for all women in business. Those without supporting husbands or partners, or those who choose partners with equally demanding schedules, run the risk of burning out very quickly.
We hear a lot these days about finding the right “balance” of work-life and family life, but is there really anything to balance? More accurately, it’s all just a blend, right?
When asked how she does it all, my wife shudders at the word balance. She explains that balance suggests that her work and home life were separate things that one could weigh on a scale. In truth, your work life and personal life flow together as one or blend.
It can be very difficult for either sex to achieve a high level of success in the business world while single-handedly blending that life with the complex affairs of running a household – taking care of the kids, cleaning up, getting dinner on the table, paying the bills, managing the family social calendar — not to mention taking care of one’s own needs. You are human after all. So, where do you start?
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
If one parent chooses not to leave his or her full-time position, this couple might be able to afford to hire some of that support by way of nannies, babysitters, housekeepers, and cooks. As convenient as these types of arrangements can be, they can also be very costly and can rarely replace the presence of a loving parent. If the family finds that, financially, and for the sake of the children, it is important that one parent becomes a full-time homemaker, this conversation can quite often be a difficult one.
An essential step for any couple, traditional or non-traditional, is for each partner to consider the pros and cons as well as expectations for this type of arrangement. The key here is open and frank communication from the onset. A couple should engage in heartfelt talks about whether they can sustain an arrangement in which she builds a career and her partner takes care of the household and children. Will he need to do everything, such as cook, clean, handle all financial matters, mow the grass, etc.? Will she still be involved in planning vacations, PTA meetings and choosing physicians? Will he feel unmanly or emasculated? If she can’t spend as much time with her family, will she feel that she has in some way failed? Too much is at stake, so talk about it.
No matter what decision a couple has made, e.g., hiring help and staying in their current positions or going the non-traditional route, they should revisit the arrangement often to ensure that it is still a working model for their family. In our family, we regularly reevaluate our blend to see whether we need to change the mix. Happiness is a reliable measure of success. If either partner feels out of sorts, the couple must never hesitate in asking why.
In my book, Lean On, I explore the challenges of work-life “blending,” the stigma of swapping traditional roles, the prevailing societal attitudes of what a “real” family looks like and how you can make it work for your family.