As a busy CEO, wife, and mother, my wife Mirka juggles a very hectic schedule. If I had to pinpoint the single-most question that she is asked by friends, colleagues and even strangers, it would have to be, “How do you find the right balance between work and life?” She explains that it’s not a matter of balancing them as if they were separate. “It isn’t as if work ends and life begins when you finally leave the office for the day. You aren’t living in two different worlds, your work life, and personal life flow together as one. So, I don’t think of it as a work-life balance, I think of it as a work-life blend.”
A work-life blend requires compromise. Mirka would love to spend more time with our children and me, but her duties as a corporate CEO limit those hours. Using them wisely requires thoughtful planning that focuses on what matters most. Mirka and I emphasize the quality of our family’s time together. This way she can enjoy enduring memories with us while devoting a quality amount of time to the career that she also loves. In both her home and her office, she can excel – the perfect “blend” of fulfillment and happiness.
I often tell Mirka how much we value her for using her gifts to make our lives all the better. Sadly, she doesn’t always recognize that using her talents to provide a prosperous lifestyle for our family is a nurturing role. Why is that? When a man spends countless hours on the job, people tend to see him as the selfless, devoted father willing to sacrifice all for the betterment of his family. However, when a woman in leadership concentrates on her job, some wonder whether she is somehow lacking in her devotion and rather more focused on her “selfish” career aspirations. As a result, a woman who is not in that traditional role as a homemaker and nurturer may harbor a sense of guilt, as if people are whispering, “Why aren’t you taking good care of your kids and family? They need you at home, so why aren’t you there for them?” A better question might be whether her family is there for her. As her supporting partner, I’ve witnessed this judgment firsthand, as well as the grace and agility with which my wife has learned to demonstrate her “blending” abilities.
Let this be the message to every working woman from the men or partners who care about you: You can’t do it all. I respect and value what you do – and you.
Not a Work-Life Balance, a Work-Life Blend
To be both wife-breadwinner and homemaker is like having two jobs. Successful women in leadership tend to be highly responsible achievers who want to do it all. These women may be reluctant to hand over any responsibilities. Instead of trusting their partner to make household and family decisions, they issue directives to take care of this or that. As much as they want to do it all, highly successful women truly need a support structure. Now, more than ever, men or partners need to rise to the challenge of sharing in domestic responsibilities. Though many have demanding jobs of their own, some, like myself, have made the heartfelt decision to take on this support role full time.
Unfortunately, if male, these partners may experience the same society judgments as their wives. Although he is doing what makes perfect sense for the security and advancement of the family, he too typically feels that fingers are pointed at him. If he does not have a paying job, he may imagine that people are whispering that he should be out there making a living for his family. He may also believe that himself, particularly if he was raised in a traditional family.
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.