As an entrepreneur, speaker, philanthropist, fitness enthusiast and mother, I am frequently asked how I manage to balance it all. When I present on panel discussions, I notice that the men on the panels aren’t asked questions about work/life balance. They too are typically business owners, parents, husbands, and involved in many other projects at once. Why is the assumption that work and life balance isn’t important to men too?
The Definition of Success
Last year, the Harvard Business Review published a work/life balance report where they interviewed over 4,000 executives over a 5 year span. They noticed interesting gender differences in defining personal or professional success. Women tended to place more value on personal achievement, gaining respect and making a difference. Women also valued personal relationships, friends, community and a good family life.
Men also placed value on these things but when work or home life collided, they leaned heavily on their role as a financial provider. A majority of the men surveyed also looked for organizational achievement, opportunities to continue developing and financial success. If they missed out on family time, they didn’t feel the same guilt at women executives because they felt it was a worthwhile sacrifice for being the breadwinner. Women, many also in breadwinning roles, saw themselves more as a role model for their children and felt guilt for not spending enough time with their children.
Many of these men had a spouse at home to help with caretaking whereas most of the women surveyed had to hire help. This too contributed to their guilt.
Times Are Changing
There are many different ways to look at statistics. After looking over the Harvard Business Review’s survey results, for instance, there still seem to be more men than ever before who value and would like time with their families. I know several men who would gladly switch jobs in order to have more balance in their lives. Even if you don’t take my word for it, here are some examples.
These men pretend to work 80 hour work weeks so they are highly regarded at their firm. If they asked for time off, reduced work hours or paternity leave, they were frowned upon. This “always on” mentality caused poor health and substance abuse. So they decided to fake how many hours they worked.
This CEO of a trillion dollar company stepped down after his daughter listed all of the times in her life he missed while at work. In that article, there were other stories of C-suite dads who struggled with maintaining a balance between work and home life.
Would you sue your boss to spend more time with your children? This man did. He requested and was denied paternity leave after his third child was born so he filed a charge with the EEOC.
When his marriage was under duress, Google’s CFO resigned to spend more time with his family. His honest resignation note went viral earlier this year with many offering kudos for his decision.
We Need to Talk About It
Just as more women are speaking up about feminist issues, more men are speaking up too. Still, there is only a small conversation about what appears to be a “women’s issue”. Fortune Magazine article reported that many men will piece together vacation time and personal days instead of speaking up about the lack of paternity leave. It seems, overall, that the view of men in the workplace shifts after they speak up. Men get left out of the conversation and shamed for not striving for the typical definition of professional success at the expense of their families.
If I can contribute to the conversation at all, I hope to bring others out to do the same. I am not the only one who wishes to contribute to the community, run successful business, stay healthy and spend quality time with my family. Men do too.
Hugs and Love,