The Elusive Work Life Balance


Why are industries so hard to break for women? There are few women in management positions, taking on the challenges of those high-powered careers; but it only gets harder as Anne-Marie Slaughter says in her 2012 article, these roles are one women deep. Any women that leaves to start a family or nurture it, will likely be replaced by a man because of the lack of a talent pool.

But it begs the question that why more men aren’t doing the same thing? i.e. leaving their jobs or taking on less intensive roles to spend more time with their family. Daikichi of Usagi Drop eventually decided to do this so he could pick up Rin on time, but initially with great reluctance.

As Slaughter says, the sentiment is usually “How could anyone voluntarily leave the circles of power for the responsibilities of parenthood?”. Although most of the men in top positions have families, many of the women in top positions are single — case in point, Julia Gillard — or have children that have already grown up and ‘flown the coop’ - as in Hillary Clinton.

Society as a whole, Slaughter says, assumes that “most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children”, which at first glance seems an unreasonable thing to say, but at the same time justified. Simply personal experience and observations shows how many men rush off to work in the morning, leaving their wives to take care of the kids before often they go to work themselves. Why? Because issues that involve many people, are more important than a few (their children and family).

Even in our society today, men are raised to believe they have an obligation to be the ‘breadwinner’ whereas women are supposed to be nurturers, caregivers — take care of the home and children. Even at a young age, being told by my mother that I had to learn household skills and men were supposed to provide, I asked myself why I couldn’t be the breadwinner instead.

I’d be one of many to say that my father is a workaholic. However when I leave work, work ends for me unless I have pressing things I forgot to do. But for the working men I’ve known in my life, this concept is not understood. “Men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family” and are “routinely praised for having sacrificed their personal life on the altar of public or corporate service”. Slaughter also asks a good question: “Why should be want leaders who fall short on personal responsibilities?”

As with children growing up under certain circumstances, sometimes they can turn out like their parents, or sometimes they can turn out the opposite. You would think that having missed their parents while they chose to spend time at work rather than at home, these children would choose not to walk in their footsteps and deprive those that love them of their company — yet some people don’t seem to understand.

Just to be clear, if you did this to me I would leave you in a heartbeat. I deserve at least the same amount of consideration I give you.

But it’s not women or corporations who should change, but society as a whole which should. The concepts of family leave, and paternity leave (think maternity leave) are steps in the right direction to understanding the importance of family. Women shouldn’t just act ‘like men’, but men should also talk less and listen more as women are stereotyped to do so. It shouldn’t require religious faith (or illness perhaps) as an excuse for taking time away from work to spend with family, and employees shouldn’t be required to be constantly at the beck and call of their employers. But neither should employees expect to stay late to work, or to provide their time on what is their downtime.

Enough is enough.