Just before Mother’s Day, I wrote a long, passionate post on my personal Facebook feed about how this article stirred up a lot of thoughts and feelings. Facebook friends from all walks of life chimed in to say that they, too, struggle with work/life balance and societal expectations. Being a working parent is hard, especially when your kids are still young. The push and pull between getting your job done and being there for your kids is there in just about every industry.
That said, parenting a small child in our industry comes with its own set of unique challenges. Men feel the brunt of this, too. I know a lot of men who want to spend more time with their kids, who worry about balance, who have made career decisions around these very issues. But in a society where women have extra expectations put on them when it comes to taking care of the kids and housework, these challenges could end up being a real barrier to entry. As an industry, we have some work to do if we ever want to approach gender parity.
Sorry, Honey, I’m Stuck on a Ladder
It’s become a running industry joke at this point. We’re all just one broken part away from spending the night on a ladder somewhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call my husband to let him know that, oops, something went sideways; don’t wait up.
Any service-oriented work is going to have its share of jobs where you stay until the client is happy. I do think that our industry has a mentality where you stay as long as necessary and you do whatever it takes to get things done. That mentality is one of our greatest assets, but it can also be a great liability. Too many late nights can send workers to the hills.
Have Laptop, Will Travel
When our clients love us, they often really love us. Which is why they’ll want us to fly to the other end of the country to work on jobs for them. It’s great, until your kid catches sight of your suitcase and starts crying.
I work long hours. I do crazy things like take day trips from Boston to Chicago (and back, natch). I’ve been known to spend a Saturday making sure that a job finishes up on time. I feel my fair share of burnout from time to time, but it never lasts. How come? My job gives me flexibility, and the ability to say “No, I can’t travel the next few weeks.”
When I’m not stuffing PPE into a carry-on bag, I work from home. I organize my work schedule around my family’s schedule and not the other way around. I can shift my schedule around so that I can bring my daughter to karate class. Or sleep in a little after a late night of off-hours uploads.
More importantly, my company makes my family time a real priority. They’ll make travel arrangements to get me home faster. They’ll put a hold on my schedule if I have something I need to do at home. They’ll hold off on out of town trips if I’m starting to feel like I haven’t seen my family enough lately. A lot of women feel like using flex time at work holds back their careers, but my boss has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care how I organize my schedule, as long as I get the job done.
The work/life balance isn’t an issue that’s going to be easily solved by our industry. Or any industry, really. But we need to work on solutions. Otherwise, we’re going to lose good talent, and we’ll never attract that next generation of stellar performers.