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Work-Life Balance? Yeah, Right!

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Jack Welch says there's no such thing as work-life balance. One mom disagrees.

Shari Storm: Perhaps it's because I am halfway through "Womenomics," or perhaps it's because I'm a C-level executive, publishing a management book, and still picking up my three kids from daycare at five every day, that caused me to roll my eyes at Jack Welch's assertion that there is no such thing as work-life balance. That is certainly a provocative statement to make, but I'm not sure how true it really is.

businesswoman and her baby

Granted, what he may have been saying is that there is no way to become CEO of a Fortune 100 company if you don't work 15-hour days. He knows better than I what it takes to be CEO of a company like GE. But how many of us want to be CEO of a multinational corporation? Very few. Most of us want a job that pays us well, gives us a modicum of prestige, and doesn't suck the life out of us.

I look around and see countless examples of women who have jobs that provide just that, and they are living their best version of a mother. I know so many women who have fantastic jobs and are fabulous moms.

In fact, I argue that motherhood often makes women better bosses and better candidates for that corner office. Here are three examples:

1. Maternity leave forces a woman to walk through every function she oversees and ensure that she has cross-trained effectively. Leaving for an extended period helps develop new talent or make clear weak spots. By examining procedures, assigning backups, and trusting others to fill in gaps, a manager builds a stronger, better, faster team.

2. Day care pickups create focused efficiencies. It has been my experience that when high-performing women suddenly have a hard stop time every day, they become far better at staying focused on mission-critical activities, spending less time on second-priority issues.

3. Raising children helps people become better at multitasking, handling stress, and being more empathetic. Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Ellison has written a phenomenal book on the subject, titled, The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. Ellison cites legitimate social and neurological research to substantiate this claim.

What I don't know is how much Mr. Welch's comments impact women's continuous struggle to prove they can be great contributors at the office and simultaneously provide an environment for their children to thrive. On the one hand, he is a management icon. On the other hand, things are changing rapidly and women (moms in particular) are quickly becoming the most powerful buying segment and wielding tremendous, newfound influence. I guess the best thing working moms can do is to keep working hard, working smart, and not pay too much attention to people who say they can't be successful in both worlds.

next: How to Tell if You're Bi-Curious
27 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. July 29, 2009, 6:42 PM

I think balance is possible but I chose not to try. My late-husband and I agreed that I would stop working when we had children. We were married for 10 years before having our first child so he had time to get an advanced degree in his field. We made sure we had more than enough life insurance. this was a wise decision because he died at the age of 38.
I married again almost 2 years ago & it was understood at the start of our relationship that I would continue being a SAHM.
My (our) daughters are 9 & 11. My previous career, or any career, would be as satisfying as being able to take my children to school & pick them up every day, being able to run to one of their schools to drop off a forgotten item or b/c one of them is sick, helping in classrooms,proctoring state exams, etc.
When my older daughter starts driving & is able to transport herself & younger sister to & from where ever I will return to my career. I have more years left of my life to work than my daughters have left of childhood and I’m not willing to miss more minutes of that childhood than I have to.

Kelly July 29, 2009, 7:22 PM

I have to be honest in stating that I find it hard to juggle both. I am an adjunct professor and I cut back my class schedule drastically after having my third boy. When I went back, I switched my classes to the evening so I could be home with my kids during the day. By the time I go in I am exhausted, but I give it my all because I think the students deserve it. I then have to grade papers, exams and homework assignments. I know that there are many women that seem to handle both
effortlessly and I think they must be naturally hyper, drink large amounts of coffee or they are lying.

ame i. July 29, 2009, 10:35 PM

Good for you, Kelly! You are doing your best on both fronts and it doesn’t look like either “side” is being short-changed. I tip my hat to you, you are a great person. Best wishes to you!

Kelly July 29, 2009, 11:20 PM

Ame i.-
Best wishes to you as well, your daughters are very lucky.


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