Work-Family: A work-family balance means spending equal time both at work and at home. Essays by Anne-Marie Slaughter and Richard Dorment on the subject of Work-family Balance explore this complex subject. In “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie notes that by saying “it all,” she refers to the ability to have a work-family balance. Richard Dorment echoes the same sentiments in his essay, “Why Men Still Can’t Have It All.” Their stance on the subject is that a work-family balance is an unattainable goal due to the current state of the economy and the way the society is currently structured.
The economy demands both Men and Women to put in many hours at work in order to comfortably provide for their families. This results in an imbalance between the time allocated for work and family. Richard states that men spend long hours at work, long hours working away from home and they travel more for work. This work-travel situation means spending fewer hours at home creating a work-family imbalance. In most dual-income families, men spend more hours at work than their spouses.
Women, especially those with children want to abandon demanding careers and settle for jobs with flexible working hours and minimal travel. The economy, however, is structured in such a way that jobs with high compensation packages involve long working hours, constant travel and a lot of working away from home. In her essay, Anne-Marie states that her working days were filled with meetings. After the meetings, she was writing an endless torrent of communications, reports, and observations on people’s drafts (Slaughter 680). She then realized that all the feminist beliefs she stood for on work-family balance were not realistic considering the current structure of the American economy (Slaughter 680). She finally left her government-job which was demanding so that she can raise her two boys despite the high-profile position.
The stigma around work-family balance for both men and women is another challenge in the act of balancing work and family. Women deal with professional stigma when they choose to step down from demanding jobs to raise their families and even when they go on maternity leave. Men have not been left out of this stigmatization and Slaughter appeals for their help. Most men avoid asking for paternity leave because of the stigma that follows it. According to Dorment (710), if more men applied for paternity leave, the playing field would be evened, and no stigma would be attached to both paternity and maternity leave. The concept of taking a family leave is highly gendered in most work environments. Men who apply for family leave are thought to be acting in a feminine manner. This is why even in California state, which was the first to fund for up to six weeks paid maternity and paternity leave, only 29% of men apply for it (Dorment 711). This stigma has to end for both men and women to be able to achieve a work-family balance.
What society expects of both men and women makes it hard to strike a balance between work and family. Women are taught that they cannot have it all and are expected to be homemakers. This has led to the rise of the feminist crusade which advocates for women can have it all. The belief that being in a leadership position makes one a role model for young girls despite the strain the position comes with. It causes much stress because these women are trying to have it all as expected by society. When Slaughter stepped down from her government position, she was met with disappointed and condescending reactions (Slaughter, 678). The comments from people made her realize the feminist ideals women have internalized are part of the problem.
Advancing in the career field is more valued in the society than advancing in family life. Slaughter’s decision to leave a high-flying career was looked down upon. She states that the decision to leave from a high government position to advance in the family life is against the social pressure heaped on career advancement in the United States (Slaughter 681). Society considers the choice family over a career as a euphemism for “you are fired” (Slaughter 682). Men are considered the breadwinners even if their wives contribute 45% to the family income. (Dorment,709). Such societal conditioning drives men to work more hours as they are responsible for the family. As a result, there is a work-family imbalance. Nonetheless, a work-family is important for a healthy family. It offers both parents more time the kids and sharing quality experience. This can be achieved through job equality, as such both male and female are treated equally.
The obstacles that men and women
face in their work and home life makes striking a balance a tough juggling act.
Societal expectations coupled with the reality of the prevailing economy make achieving a work-family balance a difficult
task. Conversations balaon how to address the challenges faced in trying to
balance work and family life should be held openly, for this goal to be attainable.
Dorment, Richard. “Why Men Still Can’t Have It All.” They Say, I Say The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings. 3rd Edition. New York: Norton, 2015. 697-717. Print.
Slaughter, Anne-Marie. “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” They Say, I Say The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings. 3rd Edition. New York: Norton, 2015. 676-696. Print.