Don´t think 8-8-8
Published: April 22, 2022
“I can´t imagine that these jobs would be family-friendly,” judges Maya, a PhD student. In our Women and career seminar, she already mentioned that she´s planning to start a family in the next few years. I observe how she is creating space for kids which don´t even exist yet. With a thick pen, she crosses out the options “Consultancy”, “Academic career” and “Sales” on her handout. Instead of asking her if she´s sure that she and her partner can get children at all, I interject, “What exactly makes for a family-friendly job for you?” “One in which I don´t have to travel, or at least not several times per month. And ideally with flexible working hours.”
I interrogate further. “Of course!” another participant bursts out as if this would be the most ridiculous question in decades. “You can´t even bring your kids to bed yourself”, Maya adds. “Maybe it´s not even that bad if you don´t do it every day,” I reply. “Your partner can then enjoy the bedtime story and all the kisses for himself. And you can enjoy dinner and a night of sleep without interruptions.”
This seminar is not an exception. Discussing careers often goes in the same direction. We ignore entire professional sectors because we think that we can´t be successful in them while at the same time caring for our families. The main reason for this rejection is that we elevate the perfect work-life balance, the magic 8-8-8, to a mantra. We try to spend 8 hours each for work, sleep and private life. Keeping that balance every day is unattainable, and that´s perfectly fine. Sometimes, work will dominate when you have a full schedule or a business trip. At other times, your private life will have more weight, when your son has a dancing competition or when school is finishing earlier.
Think about how much time and weight you want to give to the individual parts of your life. The resulting balance should reflect your own wishes- in the long run. The dream that your own personal balance is being reached every single day is plainly unrealistic. Enjoy the variety!