I want a life, too!


I hope this doesn't sound awful, but why do I sometimes feel like I want to stand on my chair and scream, "I'd like to have a life too, you know," whenever I read another article about mothers and work/life balance? I don't currently have children, and I hope someday I am able to work while caring for my kids. But today, I still want to have a life. I want to get to the gym. I want to see my friends and my family. And for some reason that seems increasingly difficult to do because of work. I have many friends and colleagues, both men and women, who are facing the same work-life challenge for a variety of reasons. And, yes, some are mothers. But no one seems to be talking about the rest of us. Is something wrong with me?

Amy R, Chicago, IL

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Cali Williams Yost's Answer:

First, Amy, come down off of your chair. I hear you and there is nothing wrong with how you are feeling. You are voicing something that others are experiencing, but don't know how to articulate. Because they are afraid if they do, people will accuse them of not supporting mothers and children, which is far from the truth.

I am a working mother of two children and a wife, and I can tell you that it does require a great deal of flexibility to care for my family while I work full-time.

But I am also the daughter of a mother who is suffering from Stage 4 lung cancer and requires care. I like to see my friends and get to the gym periodically. In today's 24/7, high-tech, global work reality, finding your individual work+life "fit" no matter what your unique circumstances is an issue for everyone.

We will all experience many work and personal transitions over a lifetime that will require us to adjust the "fit" between our work and life. Some transitions are big - like partnering with someone, becoming a parent, caring for a sick relative, or retiring. Others are smaller, but no less important to the person who experiences them - like seeing friends, going out on a date, volunteering, pursuing an avocation, etc.

Unfortunately, the media and many companies still haven't gotten the message that the work-life conversation needs to expand to reflect today's broader "everyone issue" reality. It's as if there is a whole forest but they are still focusing on one tree. And, this can make people like you who don't have kids and who aren't happy with their work+life fit, question themselves.

Stop. You have every right to pursue the flexibility you need--either the informal day-to-day flexibility or the formal flexibility that officially changes when, where and/or how you work. But make sure you consider not only your goals but the needs of the business. Therefore, your plan will have the greatest likelihood of being approved at least for a trial period. Believe me over the years I've seen employers support flexibility for good employees for all types of reasons, as long as it makes business sense. In many ways, the primary roadblock is you.

As I said to a corporate client recently that wanted to roll out its flexibility strategy through its women's initiative - Be careful.

"Your survey data shows that the men and single people are having more trouble than the women and married people in your organization managing their work and life. If you do this, it will be as if everyone is drowning but the life boats show up for the women."

The good news is they shifted gears and made flexibility a firm-wide imperative. This, by the way, ends up helping women more because it doesn't incorrectly single them out as the only people who need flexibility.

I believe more organizations, and ultimately the media, will follow the same path. But, in the mean time, Amy, stay off your chair and find the fit you need today.

About our Expert

Cali Williams Yost
Cali Williams Yost

Cali Williams Yost is president and founder of Work+Life Fit, Inc, a company dedicated to empowering individuals to strategically manage the way work fits into their lives.