Let’s Talk About Our Cultural Double Bind- A Work-Life Balance

There are a lot of messages that people get from our modern American culture- one of the most pervasive is the message that you can achieve work-life balance, if you just do it right. I’ve always thought this idea smelled strongly of bullshit, but I’ve never really been able to articulate why.

Women, especially, are told that we HAVE TO master this, or else our children/marriage/health/careers/appeal/earning power/worth will suffer irrevocably. And the implication is that it’s completely doable.

Just seize the day!

(And do it without compromising your dedication to others or your job.)


I’ve recently discovered a new blog that I’ve been devouring. It’s the business/career advice blog of a self-described ‘neurotic Jew with Asperger’s Syndrome-‘ Penelope Trunk.

penelopeHer writing style is crisp, blunt and utterly-free of brand-management bullshit. Her topics are relevant and intensely interesting. She’s open about where she flounders in a way that seems totally un-staged.

It’s hypnotic. I’ve been binge-reading her blog for days and I just keep going deeper and deeper into her perspective of current culture.

The post I read yesterday that absolutely stopped my internal world was this: a post about Work-Life Balance and how it’s a myth.

Women need to hear this- often and loudly. She points out an often ignored piece of reality- that adulthood involves sacrifices and that you can’t have it all. You really, really can’t.

You choose to care for kids, and you will take a career hit. You choose to focus on career and you give up something of the flexibility that is vital to raising kids. It’s next to impossible to do both, and the celebrities/public figures who make themselves out to be just-another-working-mom who manage to actually handle this challenge (I’m looking at you, Marissa Mayer) are full of it. Period.

Our culture doesn’t reward the hard, full time work that is raising kids. There is lip-service paid to Moms (and Dads), but no monetary recognition of the contribution they make to society. I’d like to think the least we can do is not lie to ourselves and others about the sacrifices that are an unavoidable part of parenthood.

You can’t raise kids and commit to a full-time career in the way that American Culture demands. We just aren’t set up for it. At some point, you have to choose where your priorities lay, and accept the consequences of that choice.

I love the fact that Penelope Trunk actually points this out in a clear, unapologetic way. She points out A LOT of other things about our culture that are very poorly arranged. I may not agree with all of it, but she makes very interesting points, and I do agree with almost all of it.

Just wanted to share this tonight. Please read a bit of her blog and see if some of her points resonate with you. If you’re a woman (kids or not, married or not), trying to balance life in the face of an entire mountain of Shoulds, please read some of this and let me know if you see what I see- an open letter about all the double binds that our society pretends are not there.

But we feel them. Right?

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One thought on “Let’s Talk About Our Cultural Double Bind- A Work-Life Balance

  1. This. This is truth. We are expected to raise perfect children, look like supermodels, work like CEOs, have a home like Martha Stewart, and if we don’t, or if we openly struggle, there’s a defect in who we are.

    Thanks for sharing her blog, can’t wait to check it out.

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