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The Antidote to Work-Life Balance: Part 2. Generations

Unconditional, Learning, Joy, Comfort, and Safe. These are all words I associate with family. In the second part of the Antidote to Work-Life Balance Series, I want to explore another facet of the Stop Settling™ world, Generations. Generations is just my fancy way of saying family. Family is something that occupies a fraction of most of our lives and can be very integral. Therefore, it can be very easy to settle in this facet.

Attend Those Soccer Games

So, I thought I’d share some inspirational stories about women who didn’t settle when it came to their family.

Recently at a women in tech event, a senior executive in the audience asked the panel a question about how to negotiate for yourself in Silicon Valley if you want more time off for your kids. In this particular case, she wanted to see as many of her son’s soccer games as possible. She had listed it as a necessity of her employment and negotiated her terms during the offer. She wanted to make it clear that weekends were family time (because let’s be real, in the Silicon Valley, every day is a workday). It went well and she was able to work out what she wanted with the company. However, she wanted to know that if you don’t bring something like this up during negotiations, is there a similarly effective or better time to bring it up?

It’s no secret that you have the best leverage during an offer or promotion, and not bringing up an important condition is a lack of communication on your part. Notwithstanding that, this is a conversation you can have anytime. However, the culture of a company plays a vital role in this. If you join a company that says they value family but don’t practice that in reality, it won’t matter when or how you bring it up. Chances are they will not feel that your family should affect your work life. It will never be a good time to bring it up. A way to prevent this from happening is by doing thorough research before joining a company to make sure their priorities align with yours. Investigate the company and talk to people who work there before applying or accepting an offer from the company. Make sure the company passes the sniff test before you commit yourself to it.

Take Care of Those You Love

Sometimes, however, there isn’t time to negotiate your family-time. Emergencies arise and depending on where you and your company fall on the Settling Scale will determine how you and they will react to these situations.

A woman I was working with had a very ill husband. She valued family very highly and she insisted on driving him to and from appointments at varying times throughout the day. The company she worked for also valued family very highly and thus were extremely accommodating to her needs. She was able to keep her senior position and take care of her husband without taking time off. A company that does not value family so highly may insist that someone in her case take time off. That may be the right answer in some cases or it may not be. Some people use work as a source of distraction during hard times, while others really need to take time off to focus. It is up to the individual to decide what is right. Be clear with yourself about what you need and don’t feel bad about whatever you decide.

Now, there are some companies, such as start-ups and small businesses, that may not have the same flexibility capabilities as larger companies. However, at times, they can be more flexible than their larger counterparts. It’s all about trade-offs, culture, and designing the inclusive life you want.

So, what does it look like if you’re settling?

For this, I would like to share my own story. I used to work for an incredible family-friendly company who were very aligned with their employees. My leader was a family man and led his team by example. He was a great husband and father and had created his holistic and integrated way of life. He knew what he wanted, how he wanted it, and never apologized for it. He lived by the motto, “Get the life you want.”

I had very young daughters at the time and my boss and I had made an agreement about when I would leave the office to make sure I could avoid traffic, pick-up my daughters, and be home for dinner. In fact, he was more adamant about the agreement than I was. I was still figuring out what I wanted and he helped me realize what was important to me. One day, I was still in the office after our agreed time, planning to answer a few more emails and take a call. He came into my office and said, “It’s 4:30, I don’t see you packing.” In that moment, I just felt like an a**. Our agreement was not a condition of my employment, yet my leader was putting more effort into my family-life than I was. I was trying to compromise and settle, and I couldn’t turn it off- so he did it for me. From then on, I was out of the office on time. It was a gift to my children and a much better and healthier way for me to spend time with my family and not give up my work life. It also allowed me to shift my mindset between my career facet and generations facet. I could leave work behind and focus on my family.

It’s Different for Everyone

Of course, everyone differs on how he or she approaches family. How do you define generations? What words come to mind when you think of family?