Balancing business and pleasure

Published 10 years ago

There is a new buzzword in town. Everywhere you go, businesswomen and top exe-cutives are complaining about their inability to maintain a quality work-life balance.

With the world economy still struggling, many executives, and indeed employees at all rungs, have felt the need to demonstrate their commitment to the company. They often do so at the expense of other priorities in their lives, such as family time and the things they do for fun.

Reports show that women, especially mothers and wives, feel part-icularly hard done by. They feel that their office hours demand a lot from them, and because of this, they are unable to meet the demands of their husbands and children.


It does not help that men – so goes the narrative – are reluctant to do their bit at home. They just sit on the couch and watch sport on television, forgetting that their partners have had a hectic day of their own running businesses.

While I have some sympathy for women who have to navigate this struggle, it really feels to me like the novelty of this problem is a tad exaggerated.

Everyone who works or runs a business necessarily needs to sacrifice something if they are to be successful. If it is a career or a business, then hobbies or time with family might have to suffer.

That is life. It is has been like that for a long time.


If in doubt, maybe these women should ask their domestic workers how they do it. In fact, they could ask their grandmothers, or even their own mothers. They could ask rural women or others on the factory floor how they get it right.

Just because business schools have not dedicated time and scholarships to how the night shift office cleaners, the domestic workers and the farmhands are able to manage working long hours and raising children – often for less money than their bosses spend on a pair of Jimmy Choos – does not mean they do not struggle with balancing work and life.

What some of these women forget while they are networking at business conferences is that there is another woman in their homes. And that this other woman is ensuring that the house is clean and that the children are bathed and fed.

If they were really serious about this work-life balance, they would be paying their domestic worker more because she obviously cannot be helping her own children with their homework when she is busy with the boss’s brats.


If someone is walking your dog, running your household and supervising your children’s feeding habits, chances are that their own children and household are being neglected.

Like the CEO, the poor domestic worker must also go home and be a mother to her children and a partner to her significant other. They too struggle, because invariably they have less of a support system than their bosses.

To use the catchphrase: their work-life balance is out of balance. Yet they carry on instead of making a big song and dance about it. They do not throw tantrums, because despite their low station in life, they understand implicitly that a working life requires certain sacrifices.

It is not because their own husbands and children deserve less love than those of their bosses.


I am sure that the idea of carrying a child on one’s back while getting on with the business of living did not come from a seminar on how to handle the work-life balance. Someone just threw a baby on her back, found something to keep the child from falling off, picked up a hoe and went to work tilling the fields. The trend caught on and has shown itself to be highly effective, even though it has yet to feature in business schools’ research.

Corporate and businesswomen who complain about a poor work-life balance must just snap out of it. Life is tough and it does not get any better as you climb the ladder.

It has nothing to do with being a woman. Instead of looking for symp-athy, they should try to be creative about using their time effectively.

We all have 24 hours in a day and unless you plan better, it does not matter whether you are a man or a woman, the CEO or the tea lady, you will keep ending up at the wrong end of the work-life balance.


So here is a tip for all those women stressing about how to find the right work-life balance. Pretend that you are an avant-garde employer. Take the employee you have forgotten is just as much a woman as you are out for a drink and ask her how she manages.

Who knows, the outing may just make you avant-garde instead of you faking it.