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Cultural Courage

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I cannot tell you how many women I know who are struggling with the reality of trying to balance work and family. Truth is, there is no balance. I describe it as a see-saw. When do you ever see one of them perfectly balanced? The problem is, so much in our modern lives as parents demands so much more time and attention – I think it’s actually getting harder for working mothers to make it work.

Schools rely on parent volunteers more than ever, because of budget cuts. I split a 30+ student classroom with a teacher every Monday last year and don’t know how the teacher would have accomplished what he wanted without parent help. And I just covered one day – other parents do much more than I ever could. After-school activities like sports teams are also more time-consuming than they were when I was a kid. My 12 year old has three two hour practices a week for a B-team and two games on the weekend. The last one was in Red Bluff. We met in the parking lot at 7:30 am. I had to make sure we got back in time to get him to school for a play in which he was performing. This made it impossible for me even to see my other son, who also had to travel to Red Bluff for two games. late in the day. My husband and I passed each other on the road. I did get to see him at 10pm. Sound familiar to anyone out there? Half the weekend, gone. And no laundry done.

As for the husband/wife balance, husbands are doing more domestic chores and childcare than ever before. However, women still handle more of the domestic duties. For whatever reason, that’s just the way it is. I know I’m the one who does the doctor/dentist appointment scheduling, carpool coordination, birthday party planning, dry cleaning pick-ups etc. My husband and I have tried divvying up the duties more evenly but I just get it done without reminding and faster.

Just last week statistics came out showing more women are earning graduate degrees than men for the first time ever. Great news. But much of that education ends up wasted. A persistent pay gap and glass ceiling still exist – for a variety of reasons. Frankly, though, most mothers I know have dropped out of the work force (and they realize they are lucky to have that option) because they cannot do it all. At least very well. Even flex-time is a perk I’ve never seen offered and is so rare in other industries, that I’ve done news stories that highlight the companies brave enough to try it.

And bravery is what changing all this would require. I know that bottom lines are what drive businesses and the prospect of offering benefits like health care to part-time working Moms doesn’t always pencil out. However, we aired a story today about a new CareerBuilder study showing even single working mothers who are struggling in this economy would be willing to accept a smaller paycheck to work fewer hours. And believe me, when they’re at work, working mothers FOCUS to get the job done. No time to chit-chat. We have to make life efficient. The productivity would pencil out.

In exasperation, I said to a co-worker today it may take another 100 years to see a cultural shift that would allow more of a work/life balance. However, I hope it doesn’t. And I’d argue it would be best to offer Dads the same flexible opportunities. No way to truly change the culture and have them take on more domestic duties without being given time to do it all, right?

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