28 January 2014

Would Work-Life Balance Be Easier If You Had a Better Job?

Finance-Career-Family Balance on Finger

“Work-life balance is the thing I struggle with the most.”
— Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations


Many of us imagine that work-life balance would be easier to achieve if we had a high-powered job. At the very least, we tell ourselves, we might find it easier to pay for child care or for help with household chores. And we might have greater control over our schedules, so that we would have more freedom to attend children’s school events or to take an ailing parent to medical appointments.

The reality is often more complex – in part, because of the added pressures of high-octane jobs. The latest evidence comes from a profile of Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a former professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, in the November, 2013 issue of Vogue.

Power has a husband who supports her work and who has a hands-on role in raising their young son and daughter. But Gayle Smith, a senior director at the National Security Council, told Vogue that Power still faces vast challenges. These include the “sheer ludicrousness” of the hours she must work in a job that involves representing the U.S. on issues such as the civil war in Syria. “I mean, how do you deal with one of the most pressing issues that may be unfolding on the planet when your kid just threw up on his playmate?” Smith asked.

In her comments to Vogue, Power showed a keen awareness of her work-life trade-offs. “The work-life balance is the thing I struggle with the most,” she said. “When this job came available, it was such an incredible opportunity to work so closely with the president. But everything’s a cost-benefit, right? And the benefits of this and the influence of this job are sufficiently great that there were more costs I was willing to take on the family side.” Even so, Power is looking ahead the end of President Obama’s term, when her son will be 8 years old and her daughter, 4 — a time when, she says, “a different kind of prioritization will kick in.”

What are the lessons in this for the rest of us? First, if you’re struggling with work-life balance, you’re not alone. Second, your work-life challenges not might ease with a new job, so it’s worth looking for solutions now. Finally, plan ahead – not just for the next 12 months but for the next few years. Power knows when she’ll be able to tweak her priorities. Do you have a plan for tweaking yours?

This post was written by Sharon Teitelbaum, Master Certified Coach, www.stcoach.com.