The Challenges Surrounding Work-Life Balance

It has become common today to dismiss concerns towards gender stereotypes in society and in the workplace. You would think that in the 20th century men and women would work together to eliminate gender specific roles. When I was a child, I used to think that men and women were given equal opportunities in their profession. Unfortunately, as I’ve grown older I have been able to see that is not always true. In Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter, she argues women cannot be successful in their profession and be good mothers. I disagree with Slaughter’s view. I believe women “Can have it all” but there are important factors that can affect this belief. While it is rarely discussed, women often feel obligated to fit into these gender stereotypes regarding being a mother and having a successful career. I believe women can be successful in their career and be successful mothers but there are important factors that can affect this belief including gender stereotypes, inequality, and lack of resources to counteract these negative components creating obstacles.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a well respected business woman who wrote Why Women Still Can’t Have It All to discuss the hardships working women face when trying to balance work and home life. In the article Slaughter states, “I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office — at least not for very long” (Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”). In the article Slaughter argues women cannot be successful in their profession and be good mothers. I disagree with Slaughter’s views. I believe women can be successful mothers and excel in their profession. Unfortunately, throughout my research it has come to my attention that many women feel obligated to fit into these gender stereotypes regarding being a mother and having a successful career. There needs to be plans put in place specifically in workplaces that help both men and women balance work and family life. The authors of the other sources offer knowledge from research that reaffirms the argument that women can be good mothers and be successful in their careers even though there are negative obstacles put in place by our society. Time and time again gender stereotypes and inequality often negatively take a hold of our lives. Men and women must start and continue to work side by side to eliminate these absurd standards.

When it comes to the topic of gender specific stereotypes towards women I feel like most of us would agree that women cannot be successful in their work place if they do not have the same opportunities around them as men. The Myth Of Work-Balance, by Suzan Lewis, Rhona Rapoport, and Richenda Gambles is an Academic Book that was published by John Wiley & Sons, that discusses the negative obstacles women face when feeling obligated to fit into these gender stereotypes regarding being a mother and having a successful career. The authors specifically reference the difficulties men and women face when trying to balance paid work with other parts of their lives. The authors bring to your attention that businesses often only focus on what employees need in the workplace causing work and personal life to be segregated. Unfortunately our society’s views on gender stereotypes often become interchangeable in the workplace with people believing men should be more attracted to paid work and women to family responsibilities. This outrageous gender stereotype contributes to the hardship women face when it comes to balancing work and family. In article it states, “For them to be able to do this without undue constraints, depends on social and organizational structures, cultures and practices that support the widest range of options. For example, partners may feel it is equitable to share childcare and economic provision equally, or to take it in turns to priorities one or the other. For this to be possible there has to be: (1) social policy support for fathers and mothers to share parental leaves; (2) workplace values and practices that do not penalize employees who work less than full-time, or take leaves from work, at particular points in the life course; and (3) wider societal norms that value both paid work and caring as legitimate activities for both men and women”(Lewis et al.). In order to eliminate gender stereotypes in the workplace there must be social policies that are available to men and women regarding family support. Without this in place it contributes to the hardships behind women being successful mothers and successful in their careers.

Gender stereotypes and gender roles not only negatively affect the adult population but can cause serious harm in the development of children . In Becoming Good Human Beings, by Jennifer Mohr, Eva Zygmunt, and Patricia Clark, the authors formed a research study about the importance of Early Childhood Education and the differences between the dreams low-income mothers hold for their children as well as the culture around these beliefs. The authors identify research that has direct correlation to the belief that gender stereotypes create barriers that negatively surround the youth and make it more difficult for women to be successful mothers and successful in their career, but this does not make it impossible. In the case study each member believed it was important for both teacher and parents to work together in their child’s development in their childhood and that lack of resources often contributed to a parents struggle to keep your child on the path intended. In Becoming Good Human Beings it states, “The participants indicated a belief that both freedom and a sense of security would play roles in children’s ability to get what they needed throughout their development. Analysis of the participants’ timelines and photographs suggested that they were knowledgeable about important aspects of child development and the needs of young children — needs that theorists and child development specialists have identified, including the understanding that children “can’t grow and develop fully if they don’t trust that adults can care for them and that they are safe and secure” (Carlsson-Paige, 2008, p. 11). The participants acknowledged stages of development and recognized that security was important for this development to take place”(Mohr et al. 6). All members of the case study wanted their children to be well rounded and kind hearted individuals. It is apparent that parents have high aspirations for their children, but without the help from other outside sources women can struggle balancing taking care of their children and work. This would be especially difficult for a single-parent household or low-income family. When brought back to our original question, “Can women be successful in their job and be good mothers,” The answer is yes but we must work together to make sure parents in all areas have the same positive resources for their children allowing them to understand that gender stereotypes and gender roles only negatively impact our daily life.

Similar to our previous sources, “Teaching Men to be Emotionally Honest,” by Andrew Reiner is an essay that informs you on the way society views masculinity and the changes that need to be done to help young men defy gender stereotypes. Ultimately stereotypes negatively impact both genders but also leave behind detrimental impacts that can begin at a young age and continue into your adult life. In the article Reiner takes a closer look into how our society views masculinity and the unfortunate reality that because of gender stereotypes boys suffer extreme long term consequences from this ignorant mindset. Reiner states,

“How boys are taught, sometimes with the best of intentions, to mutate their emotional suffering into anger. More immediately, it captured, in profound concision, the earliest stirrings of a male identity at war with itself” (Birkenstein 598).

Our cultural standards put pressure on adults and the youth to behave a certain way ultimately clouding their judgement for years to come. After reading both “Teaching Men to be Emotionally Honest” by Andrew Reiner, and “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, I found that the main reason individuals continue to live by these standards is because our society is teaching us to think and behave this way. We have to continue to make strides towards a gender stereotype free world making it easier to balance life responsibilities for both men and women.

Another article that strengthens the belief that women can be wonderful mothers and excel in their careers despite the obstacles that are sometimes in the way is, Why We Need to Redefine “Having It All, by Angela Smith. It is an argument also against Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Can’t Have It All.” Smith argues, “We have to reframe this conversation. Slaughter’s version of “having it all” sounds exhausting to me — but that doesn’t mean that I’m not striving for everything I want, or that my version of “it all” is any less valid than hers. It means that I get to make choices about what priorities I value in the ways that matter to me” (Smith, “Why We Need To Redefine Having It All”). Angela Smith brings to your attention the importance of understanding that not everyone has the same aspirations in life and that yes it is hard to balance work, family life, and personal life but that does not mean it is impossible. Yes to some their work is most important to them and to others their family life is. We cannot judge others for their beliefs because we do not share the same. Women must support each other through the hardship of balancing aspects of their lives in the continual fight against gender stereotypes and gender roles.

In the essay Balancing Work and Family: The Role of High‐Commitment Environments by Peter Berg, Arne L. Kalleberg, and Eileen Appelbaum argue that people in high performing jobs perform better when they are given the tools to balance their work load with family life. In their research study it was also apparent that those who work for a company that helps them achieve this view their job companies in a more positive light and are more likely to do better at their job working for a company that helps them achieve this balance. In Balancing Work and Family: The Role of High‐Commitment Environments it states,

“Our results underscore the importance of job characteristics and workplace structures for workers’ abilities to balance their work and family lives. Efforts by managers to enhance organizational performance and commitment are thus likely to have the additional benefit of helping workers better cope with the often competing demands of work and family”(Berg et al.).

The authors highlight the importance of workplace structure that allows employees to help better deal with the stress that comes with having time to be a good parent and perform well at your job. Women are more than capable of being good mothers as well as high performing in their profession. By allowing these types of structures to be put in place it will help relieve stress from the pressure.

Gender stereotypes go far beyond the workplace. In Gender Differences in Child Aggression: Relations With Gender-Differentiated Parenting and Parents’ Gender-Role Stereotypes by Joyce J. Endendijk, Marleen G. Groeneveld, Lotte D. van der Pol, Sheila R. van Berkel, Elizabeth T. Hallers-Haalboom, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Judi Mesman allows you to view the unfortunate effects of gender stereotypes and gender roles towards children. It is an article written around research studies based on the association between child gender and child aggression. Parents often implement gender stereotypes into how they treat their children differently. In the article it states, “The lack of associations between implicit stereotypes and maternal gender-differentiated use of control could also imply that mothers adapt their gender-differentiated parenting more to societal gender roles and norms of appropriate behavior for boys and girls than to their own gender-role attitudes. Recall that mothers in the current study used more physical control with boys than with girls, which fits with the idea that parenting behavior toward boys would be more likely to focus on assertiveness and dominance, because these characteristics are important to succeed in boys’ future roles as economic providers”(Endendijk et all. 312 ). By treating and disciplining your children with different standards because of their gender only contributes to the pressure that society put on us to follow gender stereotypes.

Similar to the previous article, Does Parenthood Change Implicit Gender‐Role Stereotypes and Behaviors by Joyce J. Endendijk, Belle Derks, and Judi Mesman also take a deeper look into the effects parents have on their children when they treat them differently because of gender. It is a research article based around a study toward Dutch parents examining whether becoming a parent has changed their views on gender role behavior and gender stereotypes. The authors suggested through their research that becoming a parent can change your views on gender roles. In the article it states, “The authors found that implicit gender‐role stereotypes and behavior became increasingly traditional over time in most parents, except for the following two groups: (a) Fathers with highly traditional gender‐role stereotypes did not show change over time and (b) older, highly educated mothers who worked relatively many hours outside the home and who had an egalitarian task division at home, remained egalitarian in their gender‐role stereotypes over time”(Endendijk et all.). Those who grow up in a specific environment often continue to follow similar behavior throughout their life. Gender stereotypes are prevalent through all aspects of culture and if people continue to support this behavior it will only make it more difficult to create structure in society that helps balance work and personal life.

I believe women can be successful in their career and be successful mothers but there are important factors that can affect this belief including gender stereotypes, inequality, and lack of resources to counteract negative components. While it is true that women often struggle to balance work and home life, it does not necessarily follow that they cannot be successful mothers and be successful in their work field. I agree that many women struggle to determine what having it all means to them but we must remember that each person has their own ideology towards how they want to live their life. I would like to raise some objections that have been inspired by the skeptic in me. Some will say that women “cannot have it all” in today’s society due to how it is structured. I too acknowledge there are major flaws that must be fixed in our everyday life and without correction could have catastrophic effects. I also believe men and women must work at each other’s sides to confront these issues. Both men and women of all ages should care about the importance of ending gender stereotypes and gender roles because of the catastrophic effects it has on all members of our society but most importantly the repercussions it has on the youth. Women who have a career or want a career and would like to be mothers should care about the discussion of whether women can or cannot be successful in their career and be good mothers. But by canceling out the opportunity that women can be successful mothers and be successful in their careers you would take away the motivation to help eliminate inequality, gender stereotypes, and the lack of resources to help those struggling. But why is this important? Why should we eliminate inequality, gender stereotypes, and help restore the lack of resources available? Ultimately, what is at stake here is that if we do not believe it is possible to balance being a mother and being successful in your career then we are limiting ourselves and our children to gender stereotypes and gender roles. We must eliminate these things to create a society that helps men and women who are struggling to balance their profession and being parents. In the articles the authors help challenge Anne-Marie Slaughter’s belief that it is not possible to balance work and home life. Although there are many factors that can make it difficult including gender stereotypes, gender roles, and the lack of resources tackling these negative barriers it can be done.

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