Before I go into time management advice for “the rest of us“, I thought I should define this group. The rest of us are not the 1%, which I would define as those in highly successful households with six-figure salaries. These same folks are often profiled in work/life balance articles.
Consider the “typical” work/life profile on Yolanda Edwards, Executive Editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and Emily Kalanithi, an attorney. (This is a great series from the blog “A Cup Of Jo” which I’m not singling out as criticism, just that these “types” of women are often the same ones profiles in Working Women-type magazine, i.e. women who “have it all”):
- Work schedule: I work five days a week at Martha Stewart Living from 9:30 to 6 or 6:30. I work on Momfilter from about 6:10 to 7am, which is when Clara wakes up; and I work on it at night, but not more than a half hour, because I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, so I’m a little too sloppy. I usually get a chunk of work done on Momfilter on weekends. And I try to do a post on my travel blog around once a week.
- Childcare: We have a great babysitter who comes three days a week and picks her up. On the fourth day she has after-school activities, and on the fifth day, her dad gets her. I try to pick her up at least one Friday a month”
- Work schedule: I work in the office full-time, Monday through Friday. My actual hours in the office are pretty reasonable—9-6ish. But I frequently check in on email at night and on weekends during naps and after bedtime.
- Childcare: We have an amazing nanny who comes to our house five days a week. Our nanny feeds Eve at an astoundingly early hour (4:30 or 5). After I come home from work around 6, I play with Eve until she goes to bed at 7:30. Then, if Jeevan is home, I’ll cook an easy dinner (maybe 3-4 nights a week). Or we’ll order Chinese or Thai or Indian.
- Balance: My husband has a very busy job as well…When we’re too busy or tired for real date nights with a sitter, we have devised something called “internal date nights” where we put the baby to bed and have a date at home. Even if it’s just ordering food and watching a movie, it at least means we’ve set aside the time to be together without email-checking and other distractions.
The above are just snippets and I encourage you to read the series of posts. Getting glimpses into the lives of very successful/elite made me realize that there is an entirely different world out there and that if you’re not in the top 1% or even top 15% in terms of income, your choices are so very different.
Our vision of balance is very different. People in power and/or who love their jobs really don’t want a break from their work. They call it a balance if they get home at a reasonable hour, put the kids to bed, and have another hour or so doing work-related things. For the rest of us, the 40 hour work week is just fine. That’s not to say that in a recession and stagnant hiring practices, we’re not over-worked as well. It’s just that we’re not expected to be “on call” or resent being on call since that seems above the scope of our responsiblities and pay scale.
They can buy flexibility. When you read the typical work/balance article, there is much reliance on paid help from cleaning to nannies to personal assistants. These are luxuries that are out-of-reach for most people. I call this buying time because you make enough to outsource many chores and afford a nanny, which offers more flexibility than daycare since there aren’ts pick-up or drop-off times. Secondly, those in power have the ability to set their hours. This depends on company culture, of course, and if the person wants to do this. Some hard-charging personalities probably prefer to work 60 hours per week. Still, I do believe that if an executive needs to work from home for some reason, few people would question it. If you’re lower on the totem pole, however, it’s harder to justify working from home. This is based on observations and my personal experience, but the only time I can work from home is if I put in my regular hours and then work from home on a special project. There’s no way my boss, or most bosses, would let me leave earlier with the promise that I’ll finish up in the evenings.
Part 3 of this series will address the challenges facing those of us who cannot afford to buy help/flexibility. I’ve written many posts with tips for simple living that could be applicable but I also want to delve into bigger issues regarding work/career and family. I know I have my notes somewhere…
How do you envision balance? What are your biggest challenges? How does paid help factor into your balance, if any?
Also, check out author Laura Vanderkam’s blog…her book “168 Hours” inspired this series.