Here's what 7 well-known women have to say about work-life balance
What does it mean for women to “have it all”? Is work-life balance a legitimate goal or a myth created by those who have never tried to achieve it? Questions like these resurfaced last week when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she would not be seeking reelection. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It's that simple,” the 42-year-old mother said during her press conference. “I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time.” Ardern’s decision to leave on her own terms is being both applauded and scrutinized. To provide more food for thought in this age-old debate, MAKERS has compiled a list of seven working women and their insights on how to find the sweet spot.
Jacinda Ardern — be your own kind of leader
When she was elected at the age of 37, Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in more than a century. A year later, she made headlines for being one of the few world leaders to give birth while in office. But after five years of serving her country, Ardern will be stepping down Feb. 7. “I am not leaving because it was hard,” she told reporters. “I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility; the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not.”
Be your own kind of leader — one that knows when it’s time to go.”Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister
During her tenure, Ardern gained global recognition for her leadership following two mass shootings and for successfully navigating the pandemic. “I hope in return I leave behind a belief that you can be kind, but strong; empathetic, but decisive; optimistic, but focused; that you can be your own kind of leader — one that knows when it’s time to go.”
Katie Porter — think of balance as riding a bike
Katie Porter represents the 47th congressional district of Orange County, Calif. She’s also a single mother of three. “I think the whole concept of balance is super, super messed up,” Democratic Rep. Porter said at the 2022 MAKERS CONFERENCE. “I thought about balance — maybe because I'm a lawyer — like the scales of justice. It's like this perfect thing that you put a kid on this side and a promotion on this side and all of a sudden, everything is easy and in harmony. And that is complete malarkey.”
Instead, Porter said finding that balance is more like riding a bike. “The goal is just not to fall over. If you are pedaling, you are winning. I think that is the kind of balance that we need to give ourselves permission to find in life.” Rep. Porter is pedaling faster these days, having just announced she will be running for the Senate seat of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in 2024.
Miranda Prins-Visscher — try guilt-free outsourcing
Miranda Prins-Visscher is the general manager for continental Europe at the Kellogg Company and leads a team of 600 employees. But her Twitter profile also reveals she is “proud to be a full-time working, ambitious mum of 2 cheerful kids.” When asked “how do you manage it all?” the Dutch executive answers: “I don’t. And I do not even try. I outsource 43 hours of work per week,” according to a recent post on her LinkedIn page.
Although Prins-Visscher has lived in five countries and can speak six languages, she said she doesn’t clean or cook and never learned to iron. Prins-Visscher said this arrangement gives her time to spend on what she deems most important: time with her kids, a fulfilling job and recharging. “My advice for 2023: Give this guilt free outsourcing a try. We cannot do it all [alone].”
Arianna Huffington — strive for life-work integration
Author and media mogul Arianna Huffington recently co-authored a piece in Fortune about the so-called Great Resignation and the resulting bigger-picture conversations about work. “People aren’t just quitting their jobs, they’re rethinking what they want out of life,”the article states. “The truth is that work and life are on the same side, so they don’t need to be balanced. They rise and fall together — increase your life’s overall well-being and you’ll also be more effective at work. Believing that the two can be balanced, and that when we achieve this balance we can ‘have it all,’ is a recipe for certain failure.”
Believing that . . . when we achieve this balance we can ‘have it all,’ is a recipe for certain failure.”Arianna Huffington, founder & CEO of Thrive Global
After leaving the Huffington Post in 2016, the mother of two launched Thrive Global, a digital platform dedicated to employee health and wellness. “Life-work integration is about embedding well-being into the workflow itself. It’s about well-being as a set of guiding principles that we can design our day around. It starts with asking ourselves what our non-negotiables are, what are the things in our lives that are critical components of who we are and who we want to be, and that allow us to show up as our best selves.”
Reshma Saujani — join the ‘moms first’ movement
Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Moms First, an advocacy group working to transform our workplaces, culture and government policies to help America’s moms. “I used to hate being asked about ‘juggling’ career and family,” Saujani said in a recent article. “When young women would come up to me after speeches or events and ask how I managed it all, I would literally shoo them away with my hand.” But the mother of two boys said the pandemic changed her thinking. “It became clear (literally visible through our Zoom screens!) that what happened in our homes impacted how we showed up at work, and vice versa. There was no use hiding it.” Saujani is now creating a movement to build a society where the needs of mothers come first. As stated on the activist’s website: “America doesn’t work if we don’t work for moms.”
Angela Garbes — help redefine what is essential
Angela Garbes is a Seattle-based speaker and author of the national bestseller Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change. In the book, Garbes argues that parenting and caregiving is the work that makes all other work possible. She told MAKERS that this idea came from the grief and anger she felt during the pandemic as a mom who had to put down her professional work to become a full-time caregiver. “We heard a lot about essential workers, health care workers, sanitation workers, who, yes, are absolutely essential. But I couldn't help but think, ‘What about me?’” Garbes told the audience at the 2022 MAKERS Conference. “I was working 24/7, holding everything together and keeping people alive. That work felt pretty damn essential.”
For her fellow working moms who are trying to make ends meet or simply stay afloat, Garbes had a message: “We are no different from the women we hire to clean our houses. We are no different from the women we hire to take care of our children. And you know, sometimes this can be uncomfortable to hear, but it's the truth,” she said. “We must leverage whatever power we have to advocate for them and to work with them to create a more sustainable and equitable care system.”
Jeanniey Walden — look for a blend, not a balance
Jeanniey Walden started her career as an elementary school teacher before transitioning to the world of business. She rose the ranks to become chief marketing officer at DailyPay and is now host of LiftOff, a TV show and podcast that helps employees make the most of their personal and professional lives. “So many people live their life trying to ‘have it all,’ and many times, that goal can actually backfire, and create stress, anxiety and depression,” Walden tells GOBankingRates. “The truth is, no one person ‘has it all.’ More importantly, no one needs it all. In reality, we all live most effectively when we create a ‘work-life blend’ — an opportunity to create a schedule that meets the needs of your life. When you create a work-life blend, you can create an attainable and fulfilling future path. There is no one solution that fits everyone.”