What does work-family balance mean to you?

posted Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I’m at a really fun stage of my PhD,  although ‘fun’ and ‘PhD’ are rarely words that appear together. But I’m at the stage where I’m interviewing women about WoLFi - going into their homes or having them come to mine. Sometimes we meet in cafes or at the park or where they work. The best part of the process is listening to the different stories…and they are all very different…though  common themes are starting to emerge. Some of my favourite questions in the interviews include asking the women to describe a typical day from beginning to end. I think they and I are always amazed at how much they do in a day. When I ask about who takes responsibility for work-family balance in your household – so far all the women have said it is them. This surprised me a little, considering the wider acceptance of more equally shared parenting. It also made we worry about a prediction made in ‘It’s about time’ by HREOC in 2007 which suggested that few improvements to work-family balance will be made as long as it remains framed as a ‘women’s only’ issue.  I also asked ”what does work-family balance mean to you?’ and again was amazed at the diversity of answers…It made me realise that in some ways finding WoLFi is a really personal journey but also very much connected to our social world. So dear reader, as I can not interview you in person, as most of you are spread around this vast country, and many  of you around this vast globe, I would really appreciate your take on this question. What does work-family balance or WoLFi mean to you?  Who do you feel takes responsibility for wfb or WoLFi in your household?  Feel free to ask other close ones to answer this too,  as I think this is an issue everyone needs to think about and take responsibility for…

2 Responses to “What does work-family balance mean to you?”

  1. I think what it means to me is ensuring that work pulls its weight. Work has value in two ways to me – it is fulfilling in its own right and it pays for a non-work life that is worth the time and effort. These two things can be balanced in a way that suits your own life. In my life, no work maintains intrinsic fulfillment in the long term. At least, none that I’ve done so far. Right now I’m rapidly realising that much of my work isn’t paying enough for the personal cost. I’m headed for another change, I can feel it coming.

    I think we largely make the WoLFi decisions independently. We sort of carve up the family responsibilities, and then after that, we leave it to each other to fit it all together. My other half was brought up to believe his worth is measured by his ability to provide, and while he knows academically that this simply isn’t so, it’s a huge ask for him to over-ride that instinct. It’s not my job to enforce balance on him, only to reassure him that he’s allowed to take time for himself and for the family, and to expect he pull his weight with family obligations. I think I’m probably happier with the balance I’ve struck than he is with his, but he’s working on it.

    Because where I am right now affords me a certain freedom, I try to always tell people that I am busy with family, rather than “a meeting” as my very tiny contribution to making family a legitimate obligation. If I change careers again, that may not be a luxury I can continue to afford, however.

  2. Thanks Ariane, really interesting and insightful answer,especially on the role and effort involved in paid work pulling it’s weight to make WoLFi more doable

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