The CDC recently released this map showing the prevalence of suicides in the United States. It was surprising to learn that suicides are more likely in the Spring or Fall rather than during the holidays. It is really interesting to see the prevalence pattern for suicides - people in the west appear to be much more likely to commit suicide than other people. Can any of you shed light on why this might be?
Everyone has an opinion on how to move toward a healthy work-life balance. And I am always willing to listen to the advice of others to try to come up with a plan that will help to strike that balance in myself and others. There will never be true balance – but perhaps we can at least find ways to diminish the stress of day to day living. The Mayo Clinic provided some tips on work-life balance; let’s see how they work.
Flex hours? Job sharing? I’m an attorney and already reduced my hours to part time (i.e., 40 hours a week) when my second child was born. My career has been sidetracked and I don’t know when I’ll be made partner now. Maybe never. Senior Managers may get this option but most women of child bearing years are simplly out of luck. My kids looked confused when I tried to explain the concept of flex time to them – I don’t think they’re going to go for it. I wonder if I could only bathe them on weekends to save a couple of hours a week.
I can’t say no to my boss. I’ll get fired. Work is very busy and the Depression (Recession is such a joke; call it what it is) has left us with too few employees but the work still has to get done on time. I already don’t do anything at the school. I throw money at any requests they make of me because if I have a spare moment it is for my kids; not for everyone’s kids (well, okay, I honestly might use that precious time to clip my toenails; that has to happen, too, you know). I wish I had more time than money but I don’t. My kids cry because they don’t see me enough. They want me home right now and I want to be there because I know they’ll reach a stage when they don’t want me around anymore. Maybe that’s when I’ll feel relief – a poignant relief from all of these demands.
Great idea….said nobody ever. Do this if you want to lose your job. Part of my job is getting published regularly and that means I am always reading, researching, or writing. I can’t really do this part of my job at work although it is part of my workload. And then I have to consider the written exams and the expected turn-around times. University students pay a lot of money for their educations and they don’t understand not getting their exams back as promised because I spent the night holding tiny heads over the toilet as my kids threw up. They still expect to get their exams back. And it’s such a joke to think it works the other way around. If my kids call me at work, I take that call.
Before I added children to the mix, my house was spotless. I would look at other women and wonder how they could not keep up with the housework and get dinner on the table despite their full time jobs. I get it now – it isn’t about organizing efficiently; let’s not blame the victim here. Why are you cleaning your house anyway? You aren't ever there! Who made this list anyway? I’m betting it was not a working mother.
At work, everyone is pretty cut throat. Tenure is rare and no one is going to cover for me. My obligations are my obligations and if I can’t keep them I shouldn’t be here. They resented me when I took 2 extra weeks of FMLA after I had my baby. I watch in envy as men take off an hour here and there to go watch their kid play a soccer game. My time off has been severely eroded by sick kids, teens in crisis, and my aging parents. Sadly, I’m the trusted friend and loved one everyone else is trying to rely on. I just don’t get how this suggestion is supposed to help.
Hahahaha If I could practice yoga in the car I would. But I have to drive at breakneck speed to keep up with work, hubby, and kids. My husband and I work our butts off to make sure everything at home is running smoothly and the children are cared for. Now I’m supposed to find time for myself? I mean I do think exercise is important and I do go to zumba whenever I can make it. but I also realize this may be the only "fun time" in your entire day. One time our zumba instructor asked our group "what fun things do you ladies have planned for the rest of the day?" We all looked at each other and said "uh, this was it?"
This list just doesn’t seem very helpful for me (or for the myriad women with whom I have shared it). I fear real help is going to have to be more than platitudes from clueless people. How about advice from some real people out there? Women who have discovered tips and hints based on their actual work-filled, kid-filled, husband-filled lives?
We all want it. We all pursue it. It’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Except that the pot of gold would be a more realistic goal.
Being a woman and an attorney (or any other professional, for that matter) makes your private life much more difficult. Worth it? Most likely. Difficult? Yes. Begin with determining the right time to start a family (if you want one). Female attorneys are always told to wait to have that first baby until after you’ve made partner or you won’t be seen as serious. Female professors are told to wait until they have moved forward on the tenure track. Other professional women are also given comparable advice. And yet we all listen to the slow, enduring tick of our biological clocks. Sometimes the men in our lives are willing to wait for the right time but sometimes that doesn’t work very well. One woman expressed this the best: “’Don't have children until you make partner,’ we were advised. ‘The firm will assume you're not serious about your career.’ Instead, my husband assumed I was not serious about our marriage. By the time I was eligible for partnership, seven "apprentice" years had turned to ten and I was single.”
Gladly, most of us untangle that and end up with an intact marriage and a child or two but that’s when the real work begins. The departure memo of a woman from Clifford Chance, a prestigious international law firm says it all. Even with support at home, it’s hard to be the mom. This woman decided the best way to strike a work-life balance was to quit her job. That won’t be the answer for all women and isn't even a viable answer for a lot of women due to finances. So trying to strike that balance becomes important. There was a recent interview with Laurel Bellows, current President of the American Bar Association, wherein she openly discusses the difficulties of work-life balance. In fact, she went so far as to say the work-life balance concept is a fraud – there is no balance. And I would have to agree.
No. This is not a call to abandon the careers you have worked so hard to build to return home and don an apron. And no, this is not a call to steadfastly hold on to your career and abandon the children you love and adore. This is simply an admission that the work-life balance is impossible to achieve. And a question regarding what we need to do about it.
I was working in my office one day when my phone rang. It was a reporter. Someone had given her my name and suggested it would be great to do an article on women who have figured out how to have it all. I was flattered to receive this call: she wanted to chat a bit before we actually met to conduct an interview for her article. She praised me for the wonderful life I’d created for myself - I was married, had a newborn baby, was highly successful in my career, and was in the middle of graduate school. She said she was surprised at how calm and professional I sounded. And we started to discuss how to create that tenuous balance between private and public realm work that women are supposed to orchestrate with ease.
I described my typical day to her and admitted that my weekends were filled with school. I was in an executive program so the classwork was concentrated into Friday night and all day Saturday each and every weekend. We talked about how my reading and writing was tucked into every free nook and cranny of my day. I read theory in the bathtub, nursed my baby while completing problem sets for statistics, and studied for tests at stoplights. It wasn’t easy on my baby or my husband. He spent his weekends lurking around the school near break time so that I could nurse my baby on my class breaks. While everyone else had 15 minutes to bond and exchange pleasantries, I was nursing my baby. “That’s great.” she said, “It must make it easier to get through the work week to have your baby used to having you gone already.”
“No.” I said while sadly shaking my head (she couldn’t see this as we were on the phone). I described my work week – my fears that I was balancing my career and ambitions on my baby’s (and husband’s) backs as we all ran through life at top speed. My baby was at daycare more than she was at home. I wanted a good relationship with her (and the baby I was carrying). I would graduate from my graduate program about the same time I gave birth to my second child so, the way I calculated it, I would take the time freed up by graduation to spend on both of my children. Perhaps at that point, I would be able to slow down the weekends and spend some time with my babies.
We talked about how public realm duties (i.e., work life) sometimes bleed into home life. I loved my job and worked hard to get my career in place before having children. But I have written reports at two in the morning, read audits while rocking my baby to sleep, and again read like a crazy person at stoplights. Every minute counts when you have both young children and a job. School had necessitated giving up entertaining on weekends. But graduating would not really free up time to spend with friends; it would only solve the family time we needed so desperately.
I expressed my concern that we were lying to women everywhere by saying you can have it all. I shared my belief that life is zero-sum. You take one tasty slice of pie by making one of the other slices somewhat smaller. And sometimes those choices are heart-breakingly difficult as you work to slice a pie that meets the goals of yourself, your spouse, your relationship, your children, your work, your friends, and for some of us – your school. I stated that having it all is a cruel myth and that talking about having it all really means we’re only getting a tiny piece of each slice you want. Knowing this could facilitate a larger conversation about how difficult it is for women (and, as a result, the men who love them) to balance everything in a way that makes a good life for everyone. She said she’d changed her mind and declined to interview me for her article.
I noticed a few weeks later she’d written an article about a single mom that spent her days working, running to and from daycare, and handing her baby off to her ex-husband every other weekend so she could “have a break” – and was proud to say she had it all.
“You know, I’m the person who really has all the information. I don’t know why I don’t just stop taking everyone else’s advice and just listen to myself for once.”
One activity we humans love to participate in is advice seeking. We’re more than happy to ask for advice, neurotically mull over competing sets of advice, and eventually take advice from someone. Then, down the road, the kvetching begins.
Let’s tackle asking for advice. Why, after all of the life experience you have piled up in your favor, do you feel compelled to ask advice? Sure sometimes it’s a humble brag – you just don’t know if you should buy the Mercedes or the Ferrari, you don’t know which Ivy League college to accept to (since they all accepted you – except for Cornell but who likes them anyway?), you can’t decide whether to keep dating the blonde hottie or the brunette hottie, etc. That’s cool. All of us need some positive attention now and then and most of us ask for advice when life is bad so asking when life is good can be a small celebration with our friends. But why the endless asking? Don’t we ever learn to trust ourselves? Don’t we really already know the most viable alternative deep deep down inside ourselves?
I would say yes. We do. And most of the time we’re asking for advice because we; 1) don’t really like the answer we already have and hope someone will provide an alternative (rarely happens), 2) don’t want to have to take responsibility for what we want to do next even though we know it’s not the best solution; 3) honestly don’t believe we have enough information to make an informed decision, or 4) really need some strong support but aren’t sure how to ask for it.
When you find yourself constantly asking for advice, take a step back. Think about what is happening in your life and determine the motive behind your advice-asking activity.
She used to come to me and spend hours asking ‘what if’ questions; trying to get tons of advice. Most of my advice was bad because she always saved a red herring for last. We never solved anything and I found myself ignoring her phone calls more and more often. She was a hard friend to have and her problems weren’t even that earth shattering. Then one day we went out for drinks and something was different. She said, ‘this is a problem I’m having. This is what I’ve decided to do about it – what do you think? Can you see a problem with my plan? Have I forgotten anything?’ We actually had a very productive conversation and I think she finally went away with some advice she could actually use.
She was upset and seeking advice because her husband was constantly cheating on her. One of her comforters was a male friend who was extremely sympathetic. One night he kissed her and she pulled away. She asked all of her other friends what she should do. Most advised her to go back to her husband and try to work things out and to quit talking to the Male Friend. One friend said, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I guess.” And she had an affair. Soon the lover left her and her husband, discovering the affair, also left. She spent the next decade blaming her Goose Friend for destroying her life with bad advice.
She’d been offered 2 very different jobs. She wanted them both and had no idea how to decide which offer to accept. After agonizing over it for hours and spending copious amounts of time asking friends to vote on which job she should take, I advised her to move in a different direction. She began to research the companies and quietly inquired regarding the workplace satisfaction of her prospective peers. The answer became clear when a friend of a friend was able to tell her the Manager from Job A had destroyed the careers of several people in the past 5 years simply because they did not see eye to eye on religious issues. Suddenly her choice became clear.
Every time we went out to lunch she would start in on her bad marriage. She needed advice, she wasn’t sure what to do – she was in a terrible marriage and I had no idea what she should be doing: I’d never been married! Then one day it dawned on me – this girl needs help! I offered to borrow my dad’s truck and move her stuff out of her house that weekend. I will never forget the gratitude on her face. She started to cry and said, “I’ve been asking for help from everyone and you are the only person who has offered to help me.”
Moving your life forward can be a challenge. If you find yourself needing a life coach, drop us a note. We’re here for you.