Last week, I featured seven working mothers who talked about how they try to find balance, while juggling children, marriage, jobs and everyday life. Thank you to all the lovely readers who weighed in on this important topic. I'd love to share four realizations I had...
* Maybe true "balance" doesn't exist. There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you want to spend time playing with your kids, hanging out with your friends and partner, working at a job you love and having some time for yourself to take a bath or read a book, you might not get to do each of these things, at least for as long as you'd like. Allocating time becomes a real challenge. Maybe it's less about balance and more about compromise. What I find reassuring about reading these balance interviews is knowing that no one has it 100% figured out—everyone, it seems without exception, is constantly tweaking and fiddling their schedules to make it all work.
* If you want to reach a high level in your career, you may have to work more hours than you'd like (at night, on weekends...) Not all top jobs require long hours, but many do. The recent much-discussed Atlantic article called "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" argued that if you want to rise as far as you can in your career, you will have to give up some time with your family, and if you want to maximize time with your family, you will have to ease up on your career ambitions. (It's a bold statement; do you think it's true?) Within this balance series, it felt accurate in some ways for most of these moms—many checked email or worked more at night, after putting their sweet little ones to bed. But overall, they enjoyed their careers, and that balance worked for them. It's a very personal choice about how you want to balance your career and personal life, and what's worth it to you both short- and long-term.
* Every mother has her own priorities, pressures and philosophies. It was fascinating to hear from readers who thought that a) mothers shouldn't work, b) mothers should work, c) mothers shouldn't travel away from their kids, d) mothers should take vacations without their kids, e) moms shouldn't work at night, f) mothers shouldn't spend as much money on babysitters, g) mothers should go on more dates with their husbands, etc....And it reminded me how everyone has their own desires, goals and beliefs, and that everyone should try to do what works best for them and their lovely families. There's no one right way to do it, but instead so many ways to be a great mother (and partner and person).
* Another balance series coming up! Last week's balance series featured moms who had high-powered careers, lived in cities, were married and had young children. I chose moms who were in similar situations, so that we could see how they all made different choices that worked for them. I also wanted to show that women whom we might assume "have it all" are still struggling with many of the same issues as everyone else. (The first balance series I did last summer also featured seven mothers in similar situations—these moms worked freelance, mostly from home—and again I wanted to show how a similar group of women could each make different choices that worked for them.)
But! I'd love to do another series, and this time, I'd like to feature a bunch of different kinds of working mothers—with different income levels, career paths, family situations, cultures and lifestyles—and see how their schedules are handled in different ways. Please let me know in the comments if there's any type of job or hometown or lifestyle that you'd like to see! (Down the road, we'll also do a series on stay-at-home moms, which will be fascinating, too.)
Thank you again for the amazing feedback. I was impressed by the wide-ranging responses to the series; I love your comments and am really grateful to hear your questions, thoughts, ideas and advice. We're all in it together. Lots of love. xoxo
(Painting is the "Afternoon Stroll" by Pino)