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The M Dash

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7 Women Get Real About Work/Life Balance

February 08, 2018 | Filed in: Your Career

When the term “work/life balance” first entered the lexicon, most of us assumed that it was (1) worth striving for, and (2) attainable. Now, many of the women we know are questioning those assumptions and thinking more critically about what work/life balance means to them. Some make peace with the ceaseless ebb and flow of responsibilities and obligations—and some reject the idea of “balance” altogether. Below, seven women share their philosophies.

Lisa Choi Owens, chief revenue officer and head of global partnerships at TED

Lisa wears the Emma dress in galaxy blue.

“I’m pretty good at not doing email when I get home. I try to get home by 7:00 p.m. to spend some amount of quality time with my kids. I try to put them to bed at 8:30, and then I really do need to unwind. I want to create a culture where people don’t feel like they need to respond to me at 9:00 p.m. at night. For me, unwinding means disconnecting. That’s the single hardest thing we have to do. We are being manipulated by technology, and turning it off—not constantly checking devices—is a muscle we have to exercise. Don’t get me wrong—I’m totally into technology, and it improves our lives so much—but there are other things to which it can do a disservice if not managed.”

Karen Haycox, CEO of Habitat for Humanity N.Y.C.

Karen wears the Woolf jardigan and the Rowling top in black with the Five Stone necklace in white gold.

“I think that work/life balance is a bit of a fallacy. It’s like a seesaw: It’s only ever balanced for one split second before it starts to weigh down on the other side again. You just have to make sure that you’re at least doing something on both sides of the equation.”

Jas Boothe, army veteran and founder of Final Salute

Jas wears the Masha dress in deep plum and the Pandora necklace.

“There’s this magnificent fairytale called a work/life balance that does not exist. People are not pie charts. When you say ‘balance,’ that implies that there’s 100% of something that you can divide throughout your day. But I can’t cut up my child or my husband. There’s no 20 percent family, 20 percent business, 20 percent military. Instead, what you have to do is focus 100 percent on whatever you’re doing in the moment. If I’m typing and my younger son is talking to me, I’m not focusing on what I’m typing and I’m not focusing on what he’s saying. Multitasking is a myth.”

Yondi Morris, co-founder and attorney at Knight Morris Reddick Law Group

Yondi wears the Casey dress in chestnut.

“When we first started [our firm], I didn’t have children and I wasn’t married. I used to bring my phone to the bathroom because I was afraid of missing a call or an email. There’s still some of that, but I learned there has to be a cutoff. Now I have three-month-old twin babies, and I’ll be honest: It’s been a struggle to find balance. Especially at first, I felt guilty because I wasn’t fully present for the babies, I wasn’t fully present for work, and it seemed like I was failing at both. But it helps to have people in your life who will say, ‘It’s okay for you to step away from your babies, and okay for you to step away from work.’ Being a good mother, a good wife, and a good law partner means that I have to take care of myself, too.”

Ana Homayoun, author & co-founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting

Ana wears the Dietrich jacket in night sky and the Lydia dress in galaxy blue.

“I’m all about ruthless prioritization. When I’m doing something, I’m focused on that alone. I avoid multitasking as much as I can. I also make it a priority to take time off, whether it’s walking my dogs with my phone on silent or taking a half day once a week. I’m a big believer in building wellness into your life incrementally rather than trying to do everything at once and getting burnt out. Currently, our society encourages people to work until they’re so burnt out that they have to take months off. I own my business, so I can’t do that. So for me, the valuable thing is to take time off every day. And I’m more productive when I do that.”

Carrie Goldberg, founder and attorney at C.A. Goldberg PPLC

Carrie wears the Aditi dress in galaxy blue.

“I don’t need to go to a silent zen retreat for two weeks to find balance in my life, because I find my work joyful. It gets intense as hell, but it’s my life’s calling. If I get home at 11:00 p.m. and the doorman’s like, ‘You poor thing, working so late,’ I’m like, ‘No need to pity me. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do all night.’”

Ann Shoket, author of The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be

Ann wears the Emma dress in black.

“The more women focus on the anxiety and tension between family and work, the more we do ourselves a disservice. It is possible to have both the way you want, but it’s going to be hard and complicated, and the anxiety is not helping anybody. The way millennial women think about work is going to help us solve some of that tension. This concept of being free from the office, and the work still gets done—women are demanding that at all levels and all companies. That conversation is going to make it easier for all of us.”

Let us know your thoughts on work/life balance in the comments, and for when duty calls, you can browse our new business-formal collection.