Fast Company

How Working Mothers Find Work/Life Balance

How do women balance careers with their responsibilities as mothers and wives? It takes energy, patience, hard work and (I can only imagine) tons of creativity.

A friend who’s married with two children and who works full-time recently told me, “You have no idea how profoundly your life changes once you have kids. By the time, I’ve taken care of my kids and of my husband, I have no energy or time left for myself.” To the ears of a single woman, these words sounded ominous. Millions of women, however, somehow manage to do it all, often at the cost of their “me-time.”

An intriguing article in The New York Times on Wednesday, called “Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road” explored how women are reveling in the precious time they have for themselves during business trips:

“But the allure of business trips for women is all the greater precisely because women tend to be the primary managers of the nitty-gritty of home life, segueing from the corporate world to the domestic realm.”

On top of all the responsibilities, women often have to deal with the judgment of others. One woman who has three children told the Times: “You meet all these investors, and they’re all men. They all look at me, and they always ask, ‘Oh, and how often do you travel?’ It’s such a loaded question. I’m now going to look like a bad mom or a bad portfolio manager.”

Therein lies the dilemma: can a woman work hard enough to succeed in her career without coming across as a negligent mother? And why doesn’t anyone look at working dads askance and say, “Oh, and how often do you travel?”

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11 Comments

  • Ace Concierge, LLC

    Finding work/life balance as a woman is a challenging task and sometimes, thankless. We are so used to multi-tasking and doing it all, it is just expected. We maintain a career and personal life, but this juggling act demands great expertise and patience, sometimes we end up sacrificing time with loved ones.

    Our lives are comprised of so many facets, that it is difficult to fine "me time", a necessary and needed moment to refresh and regroup. Delegating some chores and household responsibilities does help to create more time in our days, allowing us to focus on what is important, rather than on what needs to be done.

    Also, many employers are becoming more cognizant of the fact that women need a better work/life balance. Some companies provide flex schedules, in house massages, convenience and concierge services and so on.

    Manage your life and schedule time for yourself and your family.

    Susan
    Ace Concierge, LLC

  • Rachel Bondi

    The article regarding travelling working mothers goes to prove that domestic work is often harder and more intense work than a corporate career, something working fathers have relished for years when delegating housework and child raising to women. Another good article would be interviewing working dads about how they believe their business travel affects their family life.

  • Gretchen

    Perhaps we as a nation need to take a step back and review our priorities again. One of the things that drives me nuts about our work "society" is that our norms are still based on a old fashioned sort of mindset that the more time you spend, the better your work is. Why does anyone- moms or dads- need to spend so much stinking time at work? I think about this often as I am entering my third trimester with my first child. We in the US often spout off about "family values" but I get a whole six weeks (at 60% of my pay) to care for a newborn and then its back to the grind. Same type of attitude goes for vacation time- don't take it, you'll fall behind- when in reality this isn't true. Check out this article that identifies the vacation differences and shockingly no lack in productivity between US and European countries: (http://itotd.com/articles/351/... It is also my understanding that these European countries offer mandatory paid maternity leave. I think it's pretty sad that people are pressured to not carve out healthy breaks so that they can truly have a balance between work and life- maybe this is why we are stuck in a rut and lag behind in innovation?

  • vishakha

    Working mother being criticized -is rather unfortunate. Instead of being a critic, if one supports it would help her balance her work-home acts. Support may come in the form of helping hands, running legs, listening ears and last but not the least, silent mouth- if you can't be of any help, do not criticize, nor pity, simply stay silent. She will value your support and will continue to play the balancing act.

    A working mother will continue to work hard and smart- because she values the time against her child, and she will always be a mother- dont abuse the title, by calling her a negligent!

  • roger fulton

    So you say...what works for one, may not work for another. Each marriage has it's own special needs depending on each partner. What works for you may not work for me. You can't build a size 46 long suit and expect it to fit everyone.
    Good luck with that. In my counseling couples in this situation I've found some couples actually do better with each with time AWAY from each other. Some can't stand to be apart for more than a day a'la Ron and Nancy Reagan who actually were pained to be separated, a true love connected.
    So what works for the woman above, may not for you. Your situation could be different.

  • Gene

    More often than not, I think the question asked towards working monthers is out of respect. That is, respect for the fact that society still perceives mothers as the parent remaining closer to the nest, so balancing the workload along with the public perception (or misperception) can't be easy.
    Likewise, a father who elects to take on a less demanding job to remain closer to the family needs to be given a similar respect rather than being accused as a negligent leader for the family, or pushing the task of the "bread winner" on the mother.

  • Karen H. Wunderlin

    This reminds me of something a friend said to me when our children were small... "It's not that I don't have time to paint my fingernails, I don't have time to let them dry!"

    For me, travel was the occasional night each month when I could let my nails dry. No one suffered... my children developed a healthy routine with my husband, and I came back home refreshed and truly happy to see all of them.

  • Devorah

    And often enough those men lose their families by being gone and end up divorced or worse. Ignoring the man's need to be home in favor of growing a career or someone else's business can be damaging too, not just to one family but to society.

    I think the only correct answer is "I try to maintain a balance."
    Then try. Really hard.

  • Bob

    Yeah, when we guys work a lot of hours and neglect the family, we are seen as hard working and dedicated. Even if the wife and kids barely see us.

    If a woman did the same thing, she's a bad mother/wife/partner.

    It's the same in a lot of areas though, not just business. Think of the arts, sports, entertainment, and more.

  • Sarah Thompson

    I concur on feeling business trip bliss -- even a mediocre hotel bed in a passable hotel is HEAVEN for a working mom! No husband snoring and elbowing you, no toddler waking you up in the middle of the night with a bedwetting episode or needing the nightmares chased away... Some of my best sleep of the last 4 years has been on business trips.

  • creesto

    One thing I still don't understand, at the ripe old age of 45, is why wives feel that they must "take care of their husband." Conversely, why should men expect or even allow the implied imbalance of their wives "taking care of them"? My mother raised me to know my way around a kitchen, a laundry room and around cleaning supplies and the vacuum. In my household, my love and I take care of the kids and each other (we both work SEVERAL jobs), and often take turns assuming responsibilities like cleaning and cooking. I can't imagine life any other way.