Work/Life Balance: You, Me And My BlackBerry Makes Three

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We need to commend women who feel personally and professionally satisfied by their choices.

By Leah Eichler (Founder, Femme-O-Nomics)

Early in the summer, I received an opportunity to move to San Francisco for three months. Thinking that it would be a great professional move, I spent a week working out an elaborate scheme, where the kids moved back and forth between my spouse and I since his work obligations prohibited him from joining me full-time.

Fortunately, the opportunity fell through, since despite my best intentions the trip felt messy and problematic for everyone, especially us as a couple. However, it did spark a discussion about the role our careers play in our marriage.

Like many others, we support each other professionally and take nearly equal care of the kids, but those competing demands can squeeze a relationship out. What’s left can feel like a strangely polyamorous relationship between a couple and their smartphones.

It’s something to think about next time you sneak a peak at your BlackBerry during dinner. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once famously said, “the most important career choice is who you marry.” That sentiment superficially glosses over the thousands of decisions a couple makes throughout their lives that impact not only their career but also their relationship.

And it also continues to place the onus of maintaining a successful relationship alongside a promising career on women. While I’m far from an advocate of marriage as an institution, we do younger women a disservice by glibly stating if they find the right partner, career bliss will follow.

Here is an average work day for many women I know: Get up early, prep the kids for school, spend a full day at work, rush home to spend a bit of time with the kids over dinner and once everyone’s asleep, sit down to work for a couple more hours before collapsing into bed.

Then hit repeat.

When those mythical, golden years arrive – after the kids move out and your professional lives plateau — how do you avoid that moment where you look at each other and say: who are you?

In this on-going discussion about work-life balance, relationships with your significant other get short shrift and the issue isn’t going away. According to a recent Ipsos-Reid/Randstad survey, 3 in 5 female executives in Canada find managing work and family their most challenging obstacle.

A recent Harvard Business Review post on the topic mused on the impact careers can take on romance and intimacy. It referenced a female, senior executive who provocatively explained that her spouse wanted sex once a week and it would
happen with or without her.

“The “smoking gun” in the work-life debate is women’s relationships with their partner, not so much their need or ability to care for their children,” observed Lisa Martin, a Vancouver-based women’s leadership coach and author. She summarizes the relationships of women she coaches between the ones with “me” partners and “we partners”. She sees those with “me partners”, meaning their interest trump yours, as a professional impediment.

But rather than acquiesce to a spouse’s competing professional demands, the degree to which women are just saying no to marriage in favor of their careers needs to be explored. As recent statistics show, the trend of getting married is on the wane. Less than half of Americans are now married and new marriages declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010. Statistics Canada no longer even tracks marriage and divorce rates, which perhaps indicates the changing nature of traditional family relationships.

While a variety of social and economical variables may contribute to these trends, there is some anecdotal evidence that suggests when the battle between work and relationship rages, work sometimes wins. Rather than mark that a failure on the work-life balance sheet, I think we need to commend women who feel personally and professionally satisfied by their choices.

“My focus and drive has always been about the company,” explained Anne Moscone, chief operation officer of Moscone Tile and Marble. She recounted how her second husband practically needed to make an appointment to see her. The marriage lasted two years but she accepts that it would have been difficult to reach her professional height had she stayed married.

“In retrospect, the company has been my pillar and strength and it’s the one thing I can rely on… It has a persona all its own, and has been faithful, constant and provides a continual source of satisfaction,” she added. Her daughter also works with her at the company.

Others, still, feel it’s important to try to squeeze all the professional and personal elements you want into your life – even if you risk failing. “Can we realistically divide our time and effort into so many endeavors? In all honesty, I don’t think so,” said Andrea Gonsalves, a single mother and senior communications coordinator for a municipality in Ontario.

“If some areas of my life aren’t considered as successful as they could have been, I’m okay with that,” she added.

This post was originally published at Femmeonomics.

Photo credit: ToutSocial on Facebook.

About the guest blogger: Leah Eichler is the Founder of Femme-O-Nomics, a content portal for professional women. She is also the Founder of r/ally, a mobile collaboration app. Leah is a columnist on issues surrounding women in the workplace. Follow her on Twitter at @femmeonomics.