Who defines “balance” anyway?

Yesterday morning, I opened up my computer to this Above the Law post in my inbox – “Babies, Balance, And Going Back to Work.”  Interesting…and definitely a departure from the “state of the law” posts I’m used to seeing on legal blogs.  So I started to read this clever author’s response to the “I knew your writing would suck once you had a kid” email she received.  And I was immediately struck by this thought – Who exactly defines what is or isn’t “balance” anyway?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I come from a non-traditional household.  My mother is a long-time educator who supervised homeschool families in our district for several years.  She’s one of those true educators who adapts the lessons to the kid, rather than trying to fit the kid into some kind of “one size fits all” lesson.  Her creativity has allowed students with disabilities like dyslexia graduate and have successful careers in music and business, and much much more.  So when I asked who defines balance, what I was really asking was “who gets to say that balance is one size fits all?”

I had the same question a couple months ago when I read this article in The Atlantic about all the reasons why women can’t have “it all.”  It seems like “all” has somehow been defined as filling both the historically “female” role  – mother, homemaker, cook – and historically “male” role – climb to the top of the corporate ladder – in to a single person…usually a woman.  Same thing with balance – climb the corporate ladder between 9-5 and then come home to be supermom.  What about those of us, women and men, who want something different than the “1950s gender roles meets 21st century race to the top” definition of the full life we’re all supposed to aspire to?

Just looking around me at the happy and satisfied people I know – they’re all different.  One of my Aunts took the “all in good time” approach to her life – she had an extremely successful career in the hospitality industry, rose to the top of the ladder, and left at that point to get married and raise their three sons.  My Uncle and his wife decided not to have children of their own, but he has used the resources he’s accumulated through his rise to VP of a large division at a major pharmaceutical corp to support his surrogate children – his many nieces and nephews.  A good friend of mine from college got her Ivy League degree with honors as a back-up because her dream career was to be a stay at home mom, a career that she now has and does with flying colors.  A former colleague satisfies the heart and mind sides of her life in one swoop – she teaches legal skills in developing countries around the world.  I stand firm in my opinion that each of those people is living their all and has achieved the life balance that fits them.

In this highly consumer world we live in full of choices for clothes, cars, food, homes, phones, financial institutions, why on Earth would we all be expected to strive for the same life???


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