Work-life balance is a problem that doesn’t just affect women, it affects men too. Or that’s what I’ve heard. That’s not the case in my house though. I am the only one struggling with “balance.” My husband? He just schedules his time.
My husband is a great partner and father. He works full time at a demanding job, but he is still active in our everyday lives. Yet, I don’t think he has ever once thought about achieving “work-life” balance. To him, there are 24 hours in a day and he carves it up appropriately.
If we have orientation at our son’s new school, it goes in his calendar. If I need him to cover school drop-off so I can finish an article, it gets noted in his planner. The hours he misses at work are made up at home after the kids are in bed and what isn’t imperative waits until morning.
His “scheduling” approach is so different from the way I torture myself, wondering if I am spending too much time away from the kids, feeling selfish for pursuing my writing, trying to balance work and life. Sometimes I want to be more like him. He’s practical, realistic and present. But I cannot simply focus on the task at hand without considering the larger implications. If I miss dinnertime, will the kids get to sleep on time? Will they wake up in the middle of the night? Will they be more needy in the morning when I have to get work done?
Choosing a night to have dinner out with my girlfriends has consequences that can’t be captured in my datebook; consequences that relate to the ever present and unanswerable “can I have it all?” My husband never worries about “having it all” but yet he still appears to “do it all.”
Or at least everything we ask of him.
His approach means that I need to be very explicit. If the task and obligation is clear, my husband will make it happen. If the task is general or theoretically, such as “decide what we are going to do about baby girl’s lack of respect for authority,” or “determine if she needs to go up to the next diaper size,” there will be no follow up. The research, the worry, the heavy-lifting of parenting falls on my shoulders alone.
So what accounts for these differences in perspective? Is it that women are inherently multi-taskers? Lingering traditional gender roles? Whatever the cause, I worry there will never be progress for women in the workplace and implementation of flexible hours if men see “work-life balance” as a simple scheduling issue.