Why the Work-Life Balance Is a Myth

Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother (an examination of the unnecessary judgment we face-and project-everyday as parents) offers a few of her thoughts on the highs and lows of raising children in the 21st century.

Hybrid Mom: I read an article by a mother who cautioned, "If you and your partner plan to work full-time, don't have children. Period." Agree? Disagree?

Ayelet Waldman: I hate to be so adamant about things. Certainly it's much, much harder if you both work full-time, mostly because of what full-time has come to mean in contemporary American society.

When we were kids, professionals worked until 5 or 5:30. Nowadays, you're a slacker if you leave the office before 8. I agree it's not tenable for two parents to work from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and expect their children to be happy. Something's got to give. But the idea of reserving parenthood only for those who have the luxury of a part-time career seems ridiculous to me. I think we need to do a variety of things. 1. Men need to demand more sane hours, because only when men demand them will the workplace change. It's all well and good for there to be a mommy-track, but until men are rolling down it, it will be second-class. 2. Women need to start their own businesses. A friend of mine was a very successful corporate lawyer, but it became clear that her job was incompatible with the kind of parent she wanted to be. She quit and started her own firm with two other women. She's got 16 people working for her now, and they are making money hand over fist.

HM: Why do you think there are so few good, career-building part-time work options for parents?

AW: Because there are always people willing to work full-time. My husband and I were recently interviewing agents and I found myself wondering about an incredibly talented pregnant woman, "Will she be quitting soon? Will she be available to him?" I smacked myself across the face (figuratively), but if I'm thinking like this, then everyone is. And it sucks, big time.

HM: Experts, magazines, etc., all offer strategies to achieve "balance." Do you think that's possible?

AW: Achieving it? No. Striving for it? Yes.

Written by Maureen Dempsey for HybridMom.com.

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