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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Buzz, buzz, buzz

Maggie Jackson at The Boston Globe posted an interesting column today about the three myths of balancing work and family. They are: mothers shouldn't work, work-life issues affect only women or parents, and you can't have it all.

I have been thinking a lot about the second myth. Anyone who thinks that work-life issues affect only women or parents has been living and working in a sealed, air-tight container.

It reminds me of book that I liked when I was a kid called "Buzz, Buzz, Buzz." It is the story of a succession of bad things that happen because a bee stung a bull, who made the cow so nervous that she kicked the farmer's wife, who then yelled at the farmer, who then hit the mule, who then kicked over the shed, which scared the goat, who butted the dog, and eventually we get back to the beginning again where there is a bee buzzing about, who unknowingly started this circle of negativity.

Single women, single men, married couples, professional and blue-collar workers alike are affected by families' abilities to find a balance that works for everyone involved. If mom is not happy, it percolates over to dad, who then takes it to the office, who is grouchy to the security worker, who then snaps at other employees, who then type snotty emails to co-workers, who then lash out at other drivers on their way home.

"We all shoulder a balancing act whose joys and burdens ebb and flow at different times in life," wrote Jackson. Her bi-monthly column called Balancing Acts, "inspires e-mails from executive men, young singles, and others juggling work-life issues."

The bee buzzing about in the work-life scenario is the employer. Reporter Friend worked an arrangement with her boss to work from 5am to 2pm, so that her day is finished in time to pick up her young daughter from school. She has been with her company for nearly nine years. Why leave when you have what you want?

The perfect balance is different for different people. But knowing that your boss is supportive of family, and having family-friendly options like flexible work schedules, or job-shares--whether you need them now or might sometime in the future--will likely keep employees happy. Happy employees leads to productive employees, which hopefully leads to happy parents, partners, and spouces. I guess we can learn a lot from children's stories.

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