8 July 2014, by Petrina Kow
There’s Work. There’s Life. There is NO Balance.
So much for Lean in. I don’t know if you read the recent article on Forbes.com where Pepsi-co CEO Indra Noori said that women having it all is just an illusion that comes with painful sacrifices and tradeoffs. Her candour on this much debated and rather prickly subject of Women in the Workplace and Work-Life Balance was certainly refreshing and maybe what we need to hear more of. Sure, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO can coo all she wants about women leaning in and that is still a really important conversation that we need to have, but hearing Indra’s frank sentiments about her struggles makes the journey we all go through seem a little more bearable, doesn’t it? If the woman ranked #13 on Forbes Power Women’s List ‘dies with guilt’ when trying to juggle work and family, then at least #2,188,299 (ie ME) shouldn’t feel so bad.
Now, I’m obviously no high-powered CEO nor am I some devoted stay-at home mom. I am just like everyone else, trying to balance work, family and personal time in the best way I can. Think of it as standing on a see-saw. Your family sits on one side and your career sits on the other side. The aim they say, is to strike a balance. But who are we kidding? Most of the time, we’re being flung back and forth between work and family like a deranged lunatic! Like Indra says, ‘There’s work, there’s life, there’s no balance!’ It’s crazy for sure, but somehow women all over the world find magical ways to manage. We may not have it all perfect but who cares? We are supreme multi-taskers! We have the skills to juggle everyone’s schedules, remember to pick up the dry-cleaning, pay bills on time, organise birthday parties, plan meals, bake cookies for Teacher’s Day, be completely functional at work and then supervise homework, read bedtime stories and still look mildly sexy for the husband at night. Sure there are days when everything goes wrong and we forget to pick up the kids from school, or miss an appointment at work or find out that we’ve run out of toilet paper in the worst possible way, but most of the time, we manage. With HELP. Lots of it.
For me, I had to ‘sacrifice’ my radio career twice for my family. I quit the top–rating morning show on Class95FM in 2002, and another great morning show on 91.3FM in 2008. That’s just never done. Career suicide as it were. And I remember thinking at the time when I was struggling with these decisions that it wouldn’t have been an issue if I were a man. Why did I have to quit? Why did I have to sacrifice my career, for the sake of my family? Well the answer is I didn’t have to. I could’ve stayed. And it still would have worked out fine I think. Maybe my kids won’t like me as much or know me the way they do today, but still they will be fine in the end. But, I CHOSE to quit because I wanted to be there to raise my family. I knew I could still carry on with freelance work and I’ve been lucky to get enough work throughout the years.
On hindsight, I don’t regret for a second making those ‘sacrifices’. I know that going back to radio is always an option and if I didn’t quit, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to start a new career in Voice and Presentation Coaching or have time to do my one stage production a year! I guess another way to think about it is why do you work in the first place? Is it just for the money? Satisfaction? Personal interest? My work is my passion. Radio, Voice-overs, Acting and Emceeing is my thing. But my family is my life. My family informs, instructs and inspires all my decisions. And I know that without my family, I cannot have my passion, I cannot have my thing. So I guess, if you know who’s boss in your life, then you know who to listen to.