Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Some more Work/Life Balance thoughts

Of late, a couple of my stay-at-home-mommmy friends have been having conversations with me about returning to work and conversations of that ilk. I figure I'd put a synopsis of those discussions down because it is now 12 am and I am sometimes insomniac like that. After my brown-bear phase, I am in a completely awake period now, so the discipline of actually organizing thoughts on blog is probably good for winding down and going to bed.

The recurrent theme for me that it's a holistic family approach, because it has to harmonize with my husband's work/life balance as well. If Fab was an investment banker working all hours, I probably couldn't take a job which requires travel (occasionally) and long hours (quite regularly). You might argue that if he was indeed an investment banker, I probably wouldn't need to work. That is irrelevant because I even if I wasn't paid anything, I would still work. I don't want just a job because I quite like having a career (the motivations for this is a clearly a topic for another blog post).

Some days it is a real struggle.

Like last week, when I had 2 concurrent deadlines and a stomach bug hit our house. One nanny was ill, and I didn't want to use the other one because I didn't want to expose her to any more germs than necessary. So I spent Sunday caring for my husband and Sophie (who were exactly alike in the nausea/stomach cramps/diarrhea/incredible irritability symptoms) with the sole exception that I only needed to change one person's diapers. *** To all the mothers in the world that manage this kind of crises on a regular basis without any hired help - I SALUTE YOU. I personally cannot accept domestic martyrdom and will escape to my office.

My office actually is a very welcoming place.

Because I have a truly fantastic boss. Who is happy with the idea that, whilst I am willing to make temporary sacrifices to my sleep (lots!); personal time (lots!); and my family life (a little) for my career, I would draw the line at anything which I felt could cause permanent damage to my family life.

That kind of sacrifice just is not worth it, but the key is that you have to be vigilant of just how this damage occurs. Sometimes permanent damage can be caused by an accumulation of small infringements. For instance going back to work before breast-feeding is properly established and sacrificing immune function for another 2 months of billing time. On a less physical example, but far more likely, is the quiet resentment that builds in a series of minor escalations in time-allocation disputes.

To avoid this, Fab and I have an internal ranking system. We tell each other how much something means to us, so that we have markers to make decisions by. For example, if my important business meeting (RED - work) clashes with Sophie's best friend's birthday party (AMBER - personal) and Fab's squash game with colleagues (GREEN - work/personal), then Fab will give up his squash game (lose one green work, gain one amber personal) to take Sophie to said birthday party while I work (lose one amber personal, gain one red work).

However the key thing to note is that it's not always the same person which is giving up the same "work" or "personal" marker. This is what I mean when I say that the work/life balance must be for the entire family. Just as it is unfair for me to give up the majority of my career for my personal life, it is equally unfair for Fab to lose all his family time for work.

It never is that clear cut, and of course we sometimes have terrible arguments about this, but I think it's great that we have big disputes. At least we are in complete agreement on the principle that the work/life balance is equally important to both spouses, even if we don't agree on the exact mechanics of how it works.

One of the neat ways we put things in perspective is to put it into a time warp (i.e ask "will any of this matter next week/month/year/decade"?") and then it immediately sorts out for you what color marker to put on it. If you intend to spend a lifetime together, then so many things become quite trivial when viewed through a 20 year lens.


Sprog Mamma said...

I loved the last post b/c it seems like you and Fab have really worked out a nice communication system. I am jealous.

rene said...

I think you guys have established a great work/family balance and it is evident from seeing how happy, content and intelligent your little bear is!