Two points of view predominate when it comes to philosophies of work-life balance and career development. One point of view espouses that women can do it all – be a nurturing but firm mother, achieve career success, and have a fantastic marriage. The other view suggests that doing it all is inviting chaos, that it is better to decide on your priorities, and perhaps take a break in your career to concentrate on child rearing, care of aging parents, or simply to look after yourself in a stressful world.
"The Superwoman Syndrome"– a phrase coined by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz in her book published in 1984 – refers to the stress and pressure that women experience striving to achieve work-life balance while establishing successful careers. In the 1970s, shifting women's roles from the traditional housewife to a more career-oriented lifestyle, exposed a society unprepared for the the extra demands on time, money, and emotional upheaval. The feminist movement gave women opportunities and opened doors that had been shut for years, but it also created more demands than some could cope with.
American feminist Betty Friedan, in her book “The Second Stage,” argued that the "superwomanhood" of the 1980s had worsened the plight of women, and that instead of independence they were experiencing double enslavement at both home and work. A backlash against the feminist movement prompted advice for women to attempt to change gender roles and social values, and build ways to balance work and home life, without having to sacrifice one for the other.
Choice or Economics
The reality for many women depends less on choice and more on economics: Whether you can earn enough to cover child care costs or a babysitter to drive your children to soccer practice while you pursue your career goals. Other considerations are the effects on spouse and family, and whether a potential employer encourages and supports the idea of work-life balance. Personality, energy level, and desire to be career-focused, child-focused, or both at various stages in life, are considerations only if economics and employment options allow.
Prioritize and Know Yourself
The best philosophy is the one adopted based on your own priorities, desires and economic situation. Know your own strengths and your limits, what you can do and what you can’t. Perhaps delay that promotion until the children start school, when you have more guilt-free time to devote to your career. Alternatively, take that job now, but understand that you won’t be able to make every soccer game on the schedule. Make goals, but manage your stress and comfort levels. The good news is that there are plenty of excellent role models out there -- women who are doing it their own way to suit their own needs and desires – they are the ones with the winning philosophy.
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