Balancing Work and Family

When I read this article about how Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, leaves work at—gasp! 5:30 pm every day—I was both happy and annoyed.

I am a huge proponent for working smarter—not longer or harder. I can get done in a few hours what takes some people all day. I am lucky that I have the ability to block out everything around me and have a laser focus on the task at hand for a good amount of time. I hear that when I am doing this, I get a crazy look in my eye and I come off as utterly pissed off. I’m not—I’m just on a roll!

I make it a point to leave my office between 5 and 5:30 pm every day. Sometimes I can’t because I have an event to go to or something that must be finished. But, on the whole, I stick to my own personal deadline.

Keeping this schedule helps me in many ways. Here are some of them:

  • My office doesn’t have a window and I need fresh air and light. I hate leaving the office when it’s dark out—it depresses me.
  • I freelance and teach on the side. When I go home, I’m doing other work for part of the week—these blog posts included! I need to set a time to turn off my full-time job so that I can work on my freelancing. There will come a time when my full-time job no longer exists, and when this happens my schedule will undoubtedly morph. But to stay sane and get things done, I don’t work overtime if I can help it.
  • I love my friends and family. My husband travels for work, so when he’s home, I try to spend as much time with him as possible. He gets out of work around 4 pm, so I try to get home for dinner every night of the week if I can when he’s in town. We also do dinner with my sister and her family or my parents at least once a week. We also have friends we like to spend time with, and with weekends being so crazy busy with kid activities, grabbing a drink or a bite to eat with friends after work is a must.
  • I am the new co-owner of a wedding magazine (like I need another job, right?) and we spend a good amount of time in January, February, and March at wedding shows on the weekends. I need to get out of work during the week at a normal time in order to feel like I have free time to do what I want.

So, bravo to Sheryl Sandberg for putting having dinner with her kids before her job. But what bothered me about this post was that she feels she needs to make up for it by working late at night and very early in the morning to prove to her colleagues that she’s working hard.

To make up for ducking out at 5:30 p.m., Sandberg said, she would send emails to colleagues late at night and early in the morning as proof that she was still giving her all to work:

“I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard. I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, ‘Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’ And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.” — mashable.com

I understand that some jobs require more than 40 hours a week. And Sandberg’s job at Facebook is one of those jobs. This article says that, “There should never be any shame associated with heading home before 6 p.m. to eat dinner with one’s children and spouse, and Sandberg is sending a much-needed message to parents everywhere that it’s OK to leave work before dark for family time, especially since research has shown that children are healthier, happier and better performing students when they eat with their families.” But what they should have added is that people who DO leave work to eat dinner with their families often feel like they have to “make up for it” by putting in extra time, no matter what. I feel like the message being sent here is mixed.

I hope Sandberg doesn’t have an overwhelming guilty conscience about ditching work for her family—because she shouldn’t. You can make all the money in the world, but if your kids hate you and your husband or wife resents you, how great is your life?

I will never feel guilty about choosing my family over my career—because it’s my choice. Sure, at times there will be struggle to juggle both, but I don’t want to ever feel guilty about it.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by xilius.

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