Work and family : finding your own balance.
In the workplace, women have made great strides since The Feminine Mystique was penned in 1963, but today women face new challenges. Rather than barriers to entering the workforce or receiving equal education, women face the choice to leave a promising career to stay home with children or the daily struggle to accomplish career goals while also being fully present for the family. Working women today encounter a myriad of issues, but one issue I want to call attention to is striving to find each woman’s best balance between work and family.
A recent 2012 Pew survey found that for the first time among the age group of 18 to 34 year-olds, more young women than men rated “success in a high-paying career or profession” as important to their lives. However, many working women have additional burdens that are not equally shared by their husbands: in 2011, for example, women spent on average 47 more minutes per day than men doing household chores and 22 more minutes caring for their family.
Handling this “second shift” of responsibilities after work or even the interruptions to work caused by family responsibilities can leave a woman feeling out of balance. Fortunately, research on work-family conflict and enrichment can provide guidance. For instance, research finds that working does not necessarily sap from quality family time, but rather work and family domains can enrich each other. Engaging in both work and family can lead to lower distress, higher job and family satisfaction, and better work performance. And when husbands and wives share financial and childcare responsibilities, moms tend to experience less guilt and dads tend to be more involved with their children.
We also see that women have different preferences for managing the boundaries between work and family. Some prefer to segment family and work. These women would rather not discuss work hassles while at home or receive family calls while at work unless absolutely necessary. Other women prefer to integrate across the boundary, blending work and family in conversation and multitasking family duties while working and vice versa. The continual advancements in communication technology provide both help and hindrance to integrators. I will touch on research of these boundary management preferences along with my research in the areas of working mothers, negotiation, and servant leadership to offer specific suggestions to manage boundaries in line with individual preferences, as each women finds her own tools and strategies to maintain a healthy balance, whether that balance is 50/50, 40/60 or 70/30.