Thursday, April 28, 2016

Work Life Balance

On the fourth Thursday of each April, more than 37 million Americans at over 3.5 million workplaces participate in "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day."(source: Forbes.com)

This year marks the program’s twenty-first anniversary. Initially, this day was called "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," but then it was recognized that parents, not just mothers, probably wanted to model working for their children, not just their daughters. Regardless of what is called, when I worked in corporate America I found this day very interesting.

First, companies embraced it with gusto and planned activities for children and even provided childcare. Then the gusto faded - and as an employee, it was OK to have your children with you on this day. It wasn't an off day as you were at work, but how much work got accomplished was anyone's guess. I don't know what happens nowadays since I currently work from home or consult.

Ironically, when children were at work it was harder to work. Depending on the age of your children, it was hard for them to grasp the concept that you sitting at your desk and "working" was actually work. For example, they did not get all the details that went into making a decision, so there were questions and other interruptions. The organization I worked with pampered the kids - they had the best chocolate chip cookies and fun activities throughout the day. My children were well behaved (and cute) so other adults wanted to engage them in conversation. The mother in me would encourage the conversation while at the same time being wary of kids being kids. Work-life balance was not achieved on this day.

The premise of this day may be convoluted but the old adage,"children learn what they live," is true; children model the behaviors we have demonstrated for them in all areas - not just at home or at work.

I grew up in the Bahamas and this day did not exist back then. My father was the Foreman/Manager at the Bahamas Electric Company. He had a good rapport with his employees for as children we knew many of them by name. Oftentimes they would pick us up and drive us to school. It was then we realized how well-respected he was. I never went to his place of work but the way he spoke about his job and the respect shown to him by his employees were indicators that he enjoyed what he did. He was also generally happy in those days. On the other hand, my mom stayed home. My primary impressions of my mom were that she was a hard worker - she was not lazy; she was resourceful and she loved to sew. My mother seemed happiest at her sewing machine. I absorbed the skill of sewing from my mom. I think at one point my mother also attended secretarial school. One of the skills she learned was shorthand. She taught me shorthand;I wish I still remembered it today. I learned important lessons from my parents and how they handled work. My parents were aspirational - I saw from their example that a willingness to work opened up a world of possibilities.

Work is a part of life; it's not only something that you do outside of the home. Work is valuable and its worth is seen in how we are compensated. When children are very young, as a mother, work-life balance seems to be in the forefront of your brain. Everyone struggles with finding a balance but men view work-life balance differently from women. Many women are often thinking of tasks to be done even while at work. I hear it's no easier being a SAHM (so as an aside, I wish the motherhood wars would end; there's no need to pit moms against each other and it's even worse when it comes from other Christians). But children grow up and the balance shifts over time.

You are responsible for your life and therefore how you balance your priorities. It's nice to have companies recognize that striking a balance is important, but it's even more important that you do so.

My priorities start with God, and then I would say everything else falls into place. If I were a bit more specific I think it might look something like this: God, Me, Family, and Everything else.  My faith is central to who I am, so if God is not first in my life, I don't know where or what I would be. He's been first in my life for a long time and that's not changing. But I've noticed that when I don't prioritize myself, many of the other priorities fall apart. Over time I've learned how important it is to take care of me. This may be  oversimplified, but this is how I attempt to achieve the ever elusive work-life balance.


Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 [NLT]


And yet, 
“Better to have one handful with quietness
than two handfuls with hard work
and chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:6 [NLT]

How do you achieve a semblance of balance? What were your experiences with "Take Our Children to Work Day?"


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