"Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality" by Stephen Marche in The Atlantic raises so many excellent points. It provides a real-life view of what it's like to be a working mom or dad not in a place of privilege (but also doesn't fault those who are). As the Mom Corps philosophy places a high level of importance on how our families are integrated with the way we work, I wholeheartedly agree with Marche's view that the need for flexibility, balance and alignment isn't just a family or workplace issue, or a mothers vs. fathers issue. It's all of the above.
While men's absence from the work/life conversation is strange, because women don't typically make decisions about work and childcare independently from their spouses, the central divergence of familial life today is not based on men versus women. Instead, Marche suggests the main narrative tension is this, "'How the hell are we going to make this happen?' There are tears and laughs and little intrigues, but in the end, it's just a miracle that the show goes on, that everyone is fed and clothed and out the door each day."
We constantly read stories about C-suite mothers who are successfully "leaning in" and "having it all," and that's great, because these powerhouses provide us with the hope that if they can do it, I can too. But, the rest of us aren't questioning how we can further lean in because we're too busy asking ourselves, "How do I survive?" -- making Sandberg's guidance look like a super-achiever's guide to having a family. I've written on how, consequently, "You Just Might Face-Plant if You Try to Live Up to Other's Expectations."
The Atlantic piece begs the question, "Does anyone imagine that they consider themselves the victors of society's current arrangement?" The reality of work and family life today is that fatherhood has significantly evolved, and "about half of all working parents say it is difficult to balance career and family responsibilities, with 'no significant gap in attitudes between mothers and fathers.'" Work/life balance is not about gender politics. It's about the family against money.
In 2007, Marche achieved basically all he had ever hoped for in his career, and then gave it up when his wife was offered her dream job that required them to move. Their decision boiled down to economics -- his wife was going to make double what he was making, and if he was to be offered a job down the line where he would earn more than her, they would move again. "For the Boomers and members of older generations, a married couple's decisions about work were ultimately questions of power. For younger generations, marital decisions boil down mostly to money."
Gender attitudes do not affect economic reality, but rather economic reality affects gender attitudes. Marche proposes a solution to the work/life paradox: establishing social supports that allow families to function:'
The fact is, men can't have it all, for the same reason women can't: whether or not the load is being shared 50-50 doesn't matter if the load is still unbearable. It will not become bearable once women lean in, or once the consciousness is raised, or once men are full partners, always, in domestic life. It will become bearable when decidedly more quotidian things become commonplace -- like paid parental leave and affordable, quality day care.
As the article supports, ultimate liberation will not be against one another, but rather with both together. And, by considering these topics in the bigger context of life, we will understand the importance of the shift in how our family's best interests are integrated with the way we work.