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Does Trying To Split Work and Life 50/50 Really Work?

Trying to split up your work life and your home life might be more challenging than you thought.

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May 3rd, 2012

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Does Trying To Split Work and Life 50/50 Really Work?

When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a recent interview, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance,” she created a firestorm in America.

Sandberg, who is famous for putting the onus on women to “keep their foot on the gas pedal” of their careers, also shared that she has been leaving the office at 5:30 p.m in order to have dinner with her children for years, but never felt comfortable admitting it publicly until now.

MORE FROM LEARNVEST: Does Work-Life Balance Actually Exist?

It’s nothing new that a working mom is pulled in four directions at once, but for years we’ve heard about this elusive “work-life balance.” It’s the holy grail of working motherhood, that key to being at the school play and on the conference call at the same time; the trick to maintaining a smudge-free work wardrobe and a smudge-free kitchen counter.

But now that women make up the bulk of college grads, not to mention the workforce—and they’re also still Most Likely to be Mothers—why is it so revolutionary for a working mom to announce that she leaves the office before 6 p.m.–especially since she sends early morning and late-night emails to compensate?

How Do You Find Work/Life Balance?

What do you think about Sandberg’s comments? Do you believe in work-life balance? How do you find it?

SHARE: How Do You find Balance

Among the many things that contribute to gender imbalance across all spheres, Sandberg identifies at least two that continue to make things especially tough for working moms (and all moms, really).

1. Apparently, a Woman Still Needs a ‘Wife’

When we think about work-life balance, we think of the inherent imbalance of the “third shift.” This idea, which has buoyed gender conversations since the 1970s, explains that most working moms cover the majority of three shifts (kids, household and work), while their partners generally cover one (work) and change.

Data shows that even when their partners pitch in with household tasks, women spend up to three hours per week re-doing chores done by their partners. And that’s after they spend twice the amount of time as their partners doing the work in the first place.

In fact, Elle reports that when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton broached the subject of becoming a litigator with a male colleague way back in the ’70s, he told her it would be impossible because she didn’t have a wife–someone to lay out her clothes in the morning and “make sure she has clean socks.”

While the anecdote is outdated, Sandberg made much the same quip just this year, joking that the best way to ensure an equitable division of labor was to “marry another woman.”

While she was using humor to make a point, the fact that the same punchline still holds forty years after a well-meaning man told the future United States Secretary of State that the lack of clean socks would hinder her career path—and the fact that it’s being told by one of the country’s most powerful female executives, suggests that yes, even today, we still have a “third shift” problem.

(If you’re interested, we recommend–with a hat-tip to The Grindstonethis incredible essay published in the 1970s by Judy Syfers, entitled “I Want a Wife,” where the author lists the myriad reasons she wants a wife of her own, ending with the query, “My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?”.)

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