Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?

Before I had children I never once considered my work hours, the workday, or the working week.

It never occurred to me to think about fitting work into my life because I always fit my life into work. Work was my passion, my priority, my baby. Then, I had a baby.

If you are a parent reading this, you know having children is a full-time job. One child is life altering, doubling your workload, two children quadruple it. I can only imagine what adding more little people into the mix does.

After starting a family, I found myself trying to manage two full times jobs, both with completely conflicting expectations and demands.

How do I work like I don’t have children and mother like I don’t have a job?

And so it began, the never-ending pursuit of a work -life blend, the exhausting juggle of a boss and a baby. The constant feeling of never quite doing anything right. A disappointment as an employee and a mom.

And it turns out I am not alone. I ran a survey to find out how you are all doing and here is what I found.

7 out of 10 of you work full -time and of that 8 out of 10 want to work less hours stating blatantly the typical 9am – 5.30pm workday does not support you or suit family life.

62 % of you have asked your employer for some type of flexible working arrangement.  Half of you got it, half of you did not.

Some of you have never and will not ask for flexible hours because.

  • It is seen as a weakness in a male dominated industry
  • It is career limiting
  • You work in sales (or a target driven role) and it is not possible
  • You have to keep up with the men who are not doing it
  • You don’t want to lose your career momentum
  • You can’t afford to

Finally, I asked what would help you and the same three themes came up again and again.

Real part-time hours

An overwhelming amount of you said you would like to work part-time, a 3-or 4-day week ,a real one. This means a reduced workload and not 5 days crushed into 3 which seems to be what is happening in reality out there.  Not only does this lack integrity on the part of the employer this is not offering any type of relief to a working parent.

Stop judging

Many of you felt you are being judged by the 9am – 5.30pm markers even though you may work earlier mornings or indeed later nights to facilitate creche pick up, drop off or dinner, bath, and bedtime (something all of you said is the most important thing for you as working parents). You feel companies are saying the right things but when it comes down to it, they are not following through.

 Working from home

When you work from home you get to have breakfast with you children, put on two loads of laundry and make dinner, all while still showing up and doing your job at the highest possible standard.

This may seem like nothing, but the truth is, it is everything.

Many people I spoke with said they are dreading going back to the office now restrictions are lifting as it will mean less time with their family and more juggling of logistics.

From the above results it would appear for many working parents; the answer is flexibility.  In my experience children are the most inflexible beings on the planet. Even if you think you have some wiggle room, they will fall down, bump their head, or get sick, always.

So, we look to our employers and their policies to support us. We look to companies to fulfil the promises they make in public about supporting working parents, offering flexible working, and empathising with the demands of family life.

The catch is, here in Ireland there is no statutory requirement for any employer to grant a request for flexible working arrangements. It is always at the discretion of the manager and their ability to get your work covered. And this is where the grey area is for those 50 % who got their request turned down.

As one of those people shared with me.

What is the point in saying you offer flexible working if my Manager is just going to turn around and say no, we don’t have anyone to cover you?

This is a very fair question.

Is work-life harmony really possible? Not just yet it would seem.


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