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About that Thing Called “Balance”

March 10, 2017
About that Thing Called "Balance"

In any normal situation, a man—husband, father, or otherwise—should weigh the importance of “work-life balance” as much as a woman should. It is absolutely true that we live in a fast-paced world that justifies the hazards of ignoring our professional sides over their “real-world” opposition or vice versa. However, men are more frequently seen as being able to sustain a level of symmetry more than women are, as backed by an idea presented in the article, “Why Aren’t Men Talking About Work/Life Balance?” by Laura Vanderkam.

The writer details the fact that men spend time with family and can still involve work and hobbies because they do not necessarily discuss at length the struggles of doing so. It’s in the method most men use to leverage balance. “Studies reveal that men are spending significantly more time interacting with their children now than they did two generations ago. Since time-diary studies also show that men generally work more hours for pay than women do. . .men report more work/life conflict than women. With the expectation of being good workers, men wind up being ‘dads in the shadows. . .’ Men would often ‘pass’ as ideal workers, quietly going to preschool events, or leaving work in time for dinner. These men were working reasonable workweeks, while delivering results. They were achieving balance without calling attention to it.”

Women often put a much higher emphasis on achieving work-life balance than men, and there are probable causes built around this.

In a societal sense, so many women have been told from a young age that they can’t have everything and that some aspect, inevitably, will suffer. To try to make all routines of a woman’s existence operating at customary function, women, then, create what I call “compartments” to keep one segment of work or life from blending into the other. Even if the separation is an illusion, women are nearly forced into this organizational technique to avoid added stress.

Additionally, biology may play a role, too. The intrinsic need for balance strikes harder for women than men. Within the creation of mental “compartments” where tasks have to have a place or things will mix, it can be considered that the connectivity of women’s brains can further influence the motivation behind balance. “Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found men’s brains are set up like straight-as-an-arrow highways within the same hemisphere. . .Women’s brains have more connectivity between the left hemisphere, which is more analytical, and the right hemisphere, which is more intuitive and can read a social situation with far more complexity. We’re showing that at least some of that difference relates to complementary organization of the brain.” (Boesveld, 2013)

Because women are also generally more adept at multitasking, they can potentially better mentally traverse between what is necessary on the “work” extremity while simultaneously attending to the “life” side at any given moment. The back-and-forth, coupled with optimal memory, creates more effort and, consequently, more strain for women.

Unfortunately, there can never be a true work-life balance for a man or a woman. Looking for a 50/50 split is a lost cause. It literally falls on an individual to make a conscious effort towards having as close to a balance as possible, as opposed to putting pressure on the actual successful attainment itself. Most elements can’t be “all” of one thing or the other. At the end of the day, it should come down to what everyone does, man or woman; the levels of triumph; and how that person goes about getting there. It’s about the journey.

 Works Cited

 Boesveld, Sarah. “Men’s and women’s brains fundamentally different, study finds, one better at focusing, one better at multitasking.National Post, Dec. 3, 2013, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/mens-and-womens-brains-fundamentally-different-study-finds-one-better-at-focusing-one-better-at-multitasking. Accessed Mar. 10, 2017.

Vanderkam, Laura. “Why Aren’t Men Talking About Work/Life Balance?Fast Company, Jun. 17, 2015, https://www.fastcompany.com/3047387/the-surprising-upside-to-the-secret-way-men-achieve-work-life-balance. Accessed Mar. 10, 2017.

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  • Jiel March 13, 2017 at 7:26 am

    I think that there is a possibility of work-life balance. It all depends on what you do for work and what balance looks like to you. I find it interesting that men are having similar struggles but aren’t calling attention to it. Why is that? Is there an inherent shame attached? Is it too feminine to discuss? Just curious

  • Mea March 13, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I agree, Jiel, that it’s a subjective term. I believe that everything you mentioned regarding men comes into play: the fear of appearing “weak,” the ideals that the home is for the woman to worry about, the machismo in being able to handle everything without so much as a blink. Society (still, ugh) tells us that men and women should act a certain way in certain circumstances and, for many men, domesticity must be handled in the dark, so as not to be judged by their peers.