Can You Rebalance An Off-Kilter Work-Life Balance?
I can empathize with Erin Callahan. In this Yahoo! Shine article, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers has regrets when it comes to what she gave up for success. This woman is now in the throes of trying to rebalance work and life. At 47 that might be a daunting task.
Her comments come as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says women are afraid to “Lean In” and speak up for leadership roles in the workplace (click here and here to read more). Callahan is one of those women who had it all and then realized she only had it all in one area. She made it to the top of her professional game, but lost her husband through divorce and has not yet had children. She has remarried while basically disappearing from the corporate world; she has stepchildren, but is trying to have one of her own. Not impossible, but I definitely understand where she is in her pride-fear balance.
I used to be a workaholic. Like most junkies, she probably saw she had a problem, but she didn’t know how (or maybe she didn’t want) to solve it. Fate stepped in and gave us both a kick in the pants by way of a pink slip. No matter how successful, you realize how stupid you were once you are out the door. You look around and your family is in tatters, if existent at all. You have the memories and regrets of the sacrifices you made for the company and not for yourself; you realize they did what was best for “them” time and time again and yet here they are replacing you as if none of your sacrifice matters.
That’s when you start to regret neglecting what was behind door number two. Callahan’s realization that she wanted children came a little later in life and now she’s facing “the clock” to incorporate one of the best parts of the work-life balance – having her own child – even though she has stepchildren.
Is it like this for everyone? Do we all go into work life planning to ignore our families, our health, our lives? I don’t think so. Like Callahan I think it sneaks up on all of us. People who are so goal oriented set out to conquer the whole world and then when the tangible success comes – promotions, money, more work – start feeding off of that while letting the other, not so tangibly successful parts, take a backseat. At some point you think you are working so hard to provide for your family, but what your family really needs is you there for them and, in the case of babies, creating them.
There is a Native American Proverb that says if you have two things the one that survives is the one you feed. The work-life balance is about feeding and nurturing all parts as equally as you can because the one you don’t suffers. Of course, there is a component of this conversation that may have been missed. I’m a woman and so is Callahan. It would seem that men have less challenges in this area, but with fathers taking a more active role in the household putting off work might be where the scales are imbalanced. Of course, there are women who put their home life first, too.
What do you think? Is “balance” a word that we can’t really use to describe two major components in life? And if so can you “rebalance” by working hard for 20 years and then living hard for the next 20 (that’s still a balanced equation)? How are you balancing your work-life scenario? Tell me. Quick! I’m all confused now.
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Ella Rucker is the mother of one of the smartest, funniest two-year-olds she’s ever met. She is currently assistant to the head GEM which means hats-a-plenty including writing, editing, and producing for Good Enough Mother. An Ohio native implanted in NYC for the last 13 years, Ella has achieved one of her many dreams by writing. Her musings (she’s amused they’d be called “musings”) can be found at other places on the web so make sure you follow her on twitter @ellalaverne for all the information.