Best way to improve a working mom’s work life balance? Advocate for men’s work life balance.
I came across what I see as destructive press regarding work life balance. Ironically, it was advocating for work life balance, but by its content, unwittingly reinforcing the standard paradigm.
It came from a UK Magazine called “Netmums” which advocates for working mothers. It is entitled “Employers ‘should give flexible benefits to mums.’” It goes on to say that “Flexible benefits are an especially good fit for busy working moms.” The inference in that last statement is that with all the extra responsibilities mom has as child raiser, home maker and career woman, she needs more flexibility than dad.
Now I’ve never argued that men and women share the domestic workload 50/50. I have argued, however, that if we want men to share the workload equally, we must deviate from the ridiculous idea that certain genders are better suited for specific roles.
The best thing a working mom can do for her own work life balance is to advocate for men’s work life balance. I know that sounds like a loaded comment so hear me out. We have women to thank for the strides that have been made in the last 40 years when it comes to workplace flexibility and leave policy. They have fought and lobbied to be recognized as moms and career women. Men, in spite of suffering from work life imbalance more than women (according to several bodies of research) aren’t likely to rally and advocate the way women did (and do).
Likewise, men won’t start taking advantage of those hard fought policy victories by women until they stop perceiving that doing so will be detrimental to their careers, and by extension, jeopardizing the well being of the families they work so hard to support. As long as the term “work life balance” is synonymous with “mommy overload”, we can continue to expect her to look after the house and kids. And the less we do to change the workplace attitude that the best thing a man can do for his family is get ahead in his career, men will continue, not only to burn out at a higher rate than women, but make more and more work for mom at home.
In short, work life balance is unlikely to improve for working moms until it improves for working dads. Sadly, we still live in a patriarchal society. Once a problem becomes a "white male problem", we start to do something about it. As long as we stay rooted in the old paradigm, men, women their families and their employers will all continue to pay the price.