Friday, July 30, 2010

Work-Family: On Balance

As rosy a picture I painted in my previous posting on work-family balance, the truth of the matter is that raising children is not an easy task. Trying to raise children while establishing a career is even tougher. On the good days, I count the number of years until my youngest turns 18. On the bad days, I wonder if I should discourage young women from pursuing careers in science because it's simply impossible to have it all.

While mulling these rather depressing thoughts, I came across this article in the Washington Post, talking about the difficulties of parenting while pursuing a career in business. You could easily substitute "business" for "science" and "executive" for "professor" and everything Sharon Meers says applies equally well. Some choice quotes from the article:

When a father of small kids is late or looks dazed in a meeting, we're more willing to assume it's an aberration, a passing phase, and he'll snap back to top form because he values his job. We give him the benefit of the doubt. Do we give women the same?

After spending a weekend with his kids alone, one male executive told me, "If every man in Congress had to do this, we'd have some very different laws."

Meers writes that VP Joe Biden is setting up a Middle Class Task Force that can address some of these work-family balancing issues from a public policy standpoint. I agree with her that this sounds very promising, especially if they can successfully reframe the problems of working parents "not as women's issues" but as "issues of middle class economic security" as described in the article. Let's hope that this Task Force succeeds.