A few months ago I attended a huge women’s conference with some of the most powerful women on the planet speaking. So I sat in on a panel of experts discussing work-life integration to see what wisdom I could glean from business owners and CEO’s. Some of what was spoken on this panel made me want to run screaming from the sardine can of an overcrowded conference room.
When the panel started with introductions, one COO started by saying in her strung out voice “I’ve only had 4 hours of sleep over the last two days.” I thought – why the hell should I be listening to you about work-life integration? In my opinion the panel only got worse from there.
If we were truly discussing how to have it all at the right time, I would have expected some wisdom from successful women who have found a way of being at the top of their professional game while also having a personal life they love. Instead, with the exception of the one panelist who was real and offered valuable insights, I found myself desperately wanting to rush the stage and give the others a slap and wake-up call.
It pained me deeply to see a room of several hundred women hanging on the words of a few overworked business owners as if what they spoke was gospel and held the keys to their own sweet yearnings for a career and life that works, particularly those working mothers.
As I listened to their stories, what I really wanted to know is:
- Why do women have to get to the point of breaking before they cry out for help or are willing to set a boundary?
- How can you possibly call it work-life balance to go to work early, come home early to catch your child’s event and then spend all night into the wee hours working once again?
- Why do you have to be available at all hours just because you need a flexible work schedule? What are you trying to compensate for?
- When did saying No become heresy and a career death sentence?
Story after story of working constantly and showing up at their children’s events only to have their face buried in the mobile device with work made me shake my head. The one panelist even shared that her own son would ask her after his football games – why are you still working instead of watching my game? This comment made her feel guilty so she stopped looking at her phone and her son really took notice as it mattered a lot to him. Yet she shared her choice with all the regret of a drug addict missing their hit.
When did work-life balance become a thinly veiled term for trying to have it all by never really being present for any of it? [Read more…]