Finding Equality in Work-Life Balance With Your Partner
In a Time article, author and clinical psychologist Darcy Lockman addresses her observation that “Before they had kids, women divided the domestic chores evenly with their husbands....Yet when the baby arrived and grew, they found themselves taking far more than an even share of the responsibility, work and sacrifice, while their husbands received more than their fair share of rewards.“ Lockman goes on to discuss her book, All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership, which highlights interviews she conducted with 50 working mothers.
The topic of this book hit home for me. My husband and I have been married for 13 years and both work full-time jobs. After we had a child, we realized it was important to revisit how we divided our workload. We wanted to make sure we continued to operate as a unit and that neither of us became overburdened nor distracted with home while at work.
To do so, we implemented a tactic also used by one of the women Lockman interviewed: make a spreadsheet. Ours is broken down by daily, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly tasks. Since I travel for work, more of the daily responsibilities go to my husband, while I tackle more of the bi-weekly tasks.
The spreadsheet is a living document; we revisit it every six months or so, or if milestones change, adding things like soccer practice or summer camp. While it may seem excessive, the spreadsheet helps us in the long term.
As for employers, one of our responsibilities is to make sure that men feel just as comfortable tending to home needs, whether that’s taking kids to doctors or shirking after-hour work events for family events. There tends to be a double-standard in this regard: It’s expected that women will be able to take off work without as much grief as men.
To help both working fathers and mothers, CBIZ introduced a new parent program that offers support for employees as they prepare for a child’s birth or returning to work afterward. The program includes easy access to information about financial benefits, life insurance, child care/home life assistance, legal consultation and an Employee Assistance Program. The program also provides education to supervisors about how to prepare for when an employee is on leave and provides a peer Parent Advocate once the employee returns from leave.
CBIZ also gives employees the opportunity to create flexible work arrangements that allow them to modify their schedules to accommodate personal commitments such as raising children. For example, an employee can reduce his or her hours from full time to part time in the off-season or choose to work from home to cut down on commute time. We try not to put too many parameters around flex time, so it remains flexible, as circumstances change.
When changes occur, it’s important to keep the conversation going. While there may be some initial hesitancy, continued discussion ensures we are not plagued by the assumption that the work is evenly split.