So, have you noticed that more men are talking about work-life balance lately?
Neither have I. But the response I received to a recent column on this subject has me hoping that will change in the near future.
As regular readers will recall, I wrote last month about the results of the fifth "Today's Professional Woman Report," a national survey of 1,043 male and female professional members of LinkedIn. In the survey, 78 percent of female respondents reported that they had never heard a successful man talk about the difficulty of having a career and family.
However, the survey also showed that both men and women ranked "finding the right balance between work and family life" as a top career concern, and more than half of the men surveyed reported that they had heard other men talk about work-life balance issues.
As I wrote at the time, this must mean either that I'm unusual or that I'm not successful, because I talk and write about work-life balance and flexible work schedules all the time.
I was glad to be joined by other "unusual" men who left comments online responding to that article. I thought the points they made were interesting, so I'll share some of them today.
One reader, Wayne, commented on the give and take involved when men try to build more balanced lives.
"For the most part, we work to provide income," he wrote in an online comment. "To move ahead in a corporation, we have to be dedicated to the job. Life is competition between your peers and others. Frankly, it is one of the problems that leads to some women being limited in their progression more than men.
"We only really earn more if we accomplish more. In this era, when children rarely work with their fathers (or mothers), we have fewer opportunities to impact our kids. They usually have no idea what we do all day."
That's an excellent point, Wayne, and I'm glad you brought it up. My children know where I work, but if you asked them what I do all day, only the oldest would be able to give a decent guess — and that's because she shadowed me one day. I've tried to explain it, but it's hard to describe in language that children understand. I'm interested to hear what other men and women have done about this, because it is important that children know what their working parents are doing all day.
But that's not the only point Wayne made.
"In my career, I worked very hard with long hours," he wrote. "I made other decisions to be sure there was time for my family, too. For example, I dropped golf from my life. I never went out with work associates after work. When on vacation, the children always went along.
"A productive life requires balancing priorities, which may change from day-to-day. There may occasionally be a Saturday meeting that you must attend to be an effective leader, but there also will be times when you have to be at school or on a field trip. Life is never as easy as making one thing always first."
You nailed it, Wayne. Balancing priorities is always a challenge, but you made the effort to get it right. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
Another reader left an online comment in which he agreed that working fathers are continually dealing with work-life balance issues.
"My wife and I made the decision to have me be the breadwinner, but that doesn't mean that I should focus 100 percent on work," he wrote. "I have passed up work opportunities for positions and jobs that have more responsibility but mean more time at work, travel and overseas assignments. I wanted to balance with time at home even though my wife is a stay-at-home mom.
"You'll never hear me complaining about it to family or co-workers. It's just part of being a working parent, and there's nothing gained in complaining."
That's a fair point, and I agree that complaining isn't the way to go. However, I think we can raise awareness of the importance of work-life balance and encourage companies to be more proactive in offering flexible work opportunities without doing so in a way that would be considered complaining. I like to think of it more as educating, but clearly I'm biased on the issue.
This reader went on to give his guesses about why men don't speak out about work-life balance issues.
"You can call them generalizations, but #1 when most make a decision (like being the primary breadwinner in the home), men recognize this means some compromises and they 'deal with it,' and #2 men generally complain less than women. Sorry if I offend — that's how I see it," he wrote.
I don't agree with his second generalization. I've dealt with as many complaining men as women in both my personal and professional lives. But I do think that men have traditionally been willing to "deal with" a lack of family time in order to progress at work. That seems to be changing now, and I hope the needle keeps tipping more in the favor of work-life balance.
A final online comment said that the results of the original survey depend largely on how a person defines "success."
"If success means money, then I would say with absolute certainty that a man that makes a ton of money and is married to his job has NO family life," this reader wrote in his comment. "For some men, being married to their job is just fine even if the marriage ends in divorce. Money is all that matters to them.
"For other men, the term 'success' has a far different meaning and really equates to a balanced life with work and family. A wise (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) leader once stated, 'No other success can compensate for failure in the home.' Money isn't eternal, but wife and kids are."
Well said, good reader. That is exactly why I'll keep talking about the benefits to both workers and companies when people build more balanced lives.
I'm also still interested in your reactions, both to the original column and to these readers' responses. Leave a comment online or send me an email with your thoughts, and I'll use some of them if I revisit this issue again in the future.
Email your comments to email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.