The work-life balance discussion continues to encourage a conversation not just with parents but also the blurring lines of personal and professional profile.
As a proud working mum, when talking with peers this crops up a lot. The modern narrative for women sometimes feels totally unobtainable; having a career, family, hobbies, fitness AND being able to curate this across social platforms can leave you feeling like you’re never quite excelling at anything.
Guilt is probably the best term for how you feel. You work more, you feel like you’re missing out on being the perfect mother, you work less and you feel like you’ll never inspire your daughter, you don’t bake or craft….Kirsty Allsop is ashamed.
My constant go-to point on this is asking whether the balance feels right as let’s face is ‘perfect’ isn’t really a thing. If you feel like the ups and downs on each of the plates you’re spinning are just about in kilter things are going right. But as all plate spinners will tell you, things change and plates smash.
You can’t predict this either. Your partner may have great flex and move to a role with less, or you might take on a project which just pulls the balance out of sync. Sometimes you can ride these changes easy enough, other times (and I’ve experienced long term ones) you start asking yourself what you’re doing. But that’s a good thing… keep asking!
Happiness feels like the ultimate modern-day obsession. Perhaps it’s human nature once our basic needs are met, to constantly seek and adjust to better ourselves. But even these goalposts change; what you want when you’re 20, is (usually) of stark contrast to what you need as a new mum. So, my second point here is to be kind to yourself – things change, don’t feel bad if you need to also change your situation to meet the next phase.
Shout out to the many men now taking on parts of maternity leave, however I still think there’s a mixed bag with how men are experiencing being hands-on dads and doing this with a full-time job. Culturally we still have a way to go to get near to our Scandinavian counterparts who seem to be leading the way with parental work rights.
Then there’s the entrepreneurial hopefuls. Wow that’s such a thing for millennials and beyond to aspire to; making a difference, making money, doing things yourself. How fantastic that people are feeling like they can take on a breadth of careers and carve their own journeys. I do worry that this also fulfils the ‘work at all costs’ model and being always on with work and social.
I get the argument of doing things for yourself needing more of your time, the personal sacrifice but also passion. That’s fine – and again it’s got to fit with the individual. What I think we have to be careful of is simply reframing presenteeism in the office with presenteeism with social and career-life lines blurring.
How many leaders give us everything, how many influencers share every detail of their family and work life? Are we all-in when it comes to work now? I don’t have the answer, but I know that expectations continue to rise over employees with social feeds that add to corporate profile, with influencer networks that completely blur the personal and professional.