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The challenges of balancing work and family life

In a recent article in The Globe and Mail Online, Camille Paglia makes a bold statement about women’s lives: “Perhaps there is no greater issue facing contemporary women than the choices they must make about balancing home and work”. Indeed, many women from all walks of life struggle with balancing the demands of these two important parts of their lives. For working mothers, both the transition from work to motherhood, and then the transition back into the workforce, can be quite challenging. Some women would love to stay home with their children, but can’t afford to be out of the paid workforce – and feel torn about having to give up time with their children. Other women look forward to going back to their jobs, but feel guilty about leaving their children in the care of someone else. In both cases women often end up feeling like they are torn between two worlds – motherhood and paid employment.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director in Hilary Clinton’s department, has spoken out about the challenges involved in having both a high-powered career and a family. For example, working 16 hour days made it difficult for her to spend time with her children and husband. Slaughter recently made the decision to resign from her position, and resumed her academic appointment at Princeton University, in order to spend more time at home with her family. At the other end of the spectrum, the Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, recently made a highly controversial decision to take an extremely short maternity leave – only a “few weeks long” – after which she returned to work. Both of these women were fortunate to have these choices – given their incomes, resources, and career options. However, many women have no choice but to return to work and find care for their children.

According to Camilla Paglia these days girls grow up believing that they can have it all – motherhood and a career – whenever they’re ready. They don’t hear about the challenges in trying to do both roles well. She believes that girls should be given the opportunity to discuss their desires for their future lives – if they want children, careers or both – and be given information about all of these lifestyle options.

If you are having difficulty balancing your work and family life you are not alone. Talking with other women about their approach to work/family balance may be helpful. You might also benefit from reading the books listed below:

The balanced mom: Raising your kids without losing yourself by Bria Simpson (2006)

Mojo mom: Nurturing your self while raising a family by Amy Tiemann (2009)

Mommy guilt: Learn to worry less, focus on what matters most, and raise happier kids by Julie Bort, Aviva Pflock, & Devra Renner (2005)

Read Camilla Paglia’s article here:

Motherhood gets a raw deal from feminists [The Globe and Mail Online]

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One Response to “The challenges of balancing work and family life”

  1. Ali says:

    Thanks for giving a voice to one of the biggest challenges in my life – juggling both my career and motherhood. I’ve often felt like I was failing or doing something wrong because I couldn’t successfully “do it all” like the feminist movement told us we could – I just always felt like I was dropping the ball somewhere – never really succeeding at any of the roles that I was filling (mother, wife, employee). I wish more women would share their struggles to balance career and motherhood. I’ve often felt like I’m the only one. But stories like these make me feel like I’m not completely losing it and that the challenge isn’t a personal failure. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

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