Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Work-Life balance: Is there any?

Recently I was bit surprised to read a wall post on my FB from my cousin saying about not to mix professional and personal life. I was surprised as he is a first year college student, living with his very caring parents and so, he does not have any idea of professional and personal commitments as in real sense.

I immediately commented him that do you know that it is extremely difficult in todays world, he replied that this is his dream, though he does not know what the reality is and how his life will be. 

'Work-life balance' a very complicated and layered term I feel. It has different meaning for every person. It entirely depends on the kind of work he/she is involved in and the availability of social help for him or her. Today for some or I must say for most  of us it is fine to intertwine both together and proceed towards a blurred life.

After having many years of hovering guilty clouds in my mind shouting at me that I am the worst mother of the world and very bad in balancing work with life, I must say that at last I have been able to overpower those negative feelings recently (well most of the time).  My 6 and half year old child who stays almost 9-10 hours every weekdays without me (in school, after-school club or in a friends house) often tells me that she thinks that her mum is very funny and fine. You believe it or not this gives a tremendous boost to me and melts down slowly all those years of guilt consciousness I had grown in my mind while she was a toddler. 

Today whenever I see any toddler's mother feeling guilty about leaving her child in a day care for long hours I say her something which no body ever told me in that stage and that is "Don't worry, your child will not remember these days and believe me as long as her day care is a happy, safe and healthy place to stay your child will grow fine." Catching childhood illnesses at a day care is a common thing for a toddler going to day care for a long time and this period is a very testing period for every working parent.  This is also the time when most of the working mothers step down or out of their work. 

Work is ever growing and some professions like academics, medicine, law needs many more hours than normal 8 allocated for work in our world. With more women trying to enter in these fields, balancing between two demanding jobs and 1 or 2 small kids becomes a challenge for young parents to tackle it all, round the clock. It becomes a necessity for at least one of the parent to slow down ( often mothers) to keep things going.

Work - life balance is a never ending juggle and needs constant care specially when kids are small, any of the family member get sick or before a big project. On several occasions one don't have any family help and cannot afford to hire extra hands. Often at these situations the level of patience decreases among couples resulting into disharmony between them. But understanding of each others work schedule and joint approach towards parenting often is the best way to overcome these jumbled up days.

Then comes another situation where when two parents are doing same or even different kind of jobs and it is very common that they don't find jobs in the same cities and one of them might need to commute either daily, weekly, quarterly or even yearly. Distant parents miss the milestones of growing child and the nearby parent keep getting more stressed. In these situations other members of the family specially grand parents can be a great help but it is not always possible for many, for examples for expats or when grand parents themselves are ill. Prioritizing work and domestic chores, reaching out for  help with other families and communities, increasing social interactions is extremely important to overcome the feeling of loneliness and overwhelming responsibilities. Trying every possible way to reduce the separation time between family members is worth trying although it can pinch ones pocket. And finally if possible it is always good to find a final solution to the distance.

All in all, an entirely equal world which has been a dream of many philosophers for years is not an easy state to achieve, with equal rights to education and having similar jobs for both men and women the balance which has been created from long time in history of raising a child, looking after the house by a woman and earning and bringing money home by a man has got all entangled now. It requires few more generations to create a new kind of balance between work and life.

Some more interesting links : Time to hire a housekeeper (Science Magazine) 
                                               Scientist dad step up (Science Magazine),

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