Posted by: kelseyburden10 | January 23, 2014

The “Perfect” Work/Life Balance

This article discusses research completed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and it claims that the perfect work/life balance for women to go back to work, but only to work 15 to 24 hours a week, or two to three days out of the week.

I think this article makes me irrationally angry. I feel this way for a couple of reasons. First, no duh that’s the perfect balance. The world works too much as it is and people should spend more time with their families. I feel like the majority of people (not just women) would love a world where they only had to work 2-3 days out of the week.

Second, although this might be the perfect balance, there is a reason why more people don’t do this. People work for a reason; they need to make money to support their family, and while this amount of time might be a great balance, when they are unable to support their families because they aren’t making enough money, it’s not such a perfect balance anymore.

Third, this article said it was the perfect balance for women, not people. I’m sure most children would benefit greatly by having mom and dad home with them the majority of the week, not just mom. I understand that our society feels a need to separate everyone by gender and study accordingly, but a lot of the time it isn’t accurate.

Lastly, it bothers me that this study tells us how much women are supposed to work, or rather the ideal amount of time for women to work. I feel like this number is different for everyone; I’m sure some women want to stay home full time and some women want to work full time and that works for them. In my house my mom stayed home with us full time when we were little and when we got older she went back to work full time and that worked great for our family. I don’t want a study to tell me what is best for my (future) family and me. I believe it will be different for everyone.


I chose to post this article and rant about it for a little (sorry about that) because I felt it really applied to a lot of the literature we have been reading in class: first, the Heifetz reading in Kellerman and Rhone and second, the Feminine Mystique. Both of these readings discuss the balance of work and family, and identity and purpose. There definitely needs to be a balance between all of those things. People (women and men) need to find what works best for them, and it will be different for everyone. Some will find that working more fulfills more of a purpose, while others will feel spending time at home will give them more purpose. BUT IT WILL BE DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.

I think of it as a spectrum, and all people can fall anywhere on the spectrum. In many cases women will fall closer to some men, and men will fall closer to some women. It totally depends on the person.


  1. This article also frustrated me for the same reasons. It honestly seems rather silly “the perfect work week is 15 hours,” yeah, that sounds great! I’m sure everyone would want to only work 15 hours and STILL be able to provide for their families, which brings me to my first question about this study. I don’t really think it’s possible to say “this is the perfect formula” for everyone because people have different financial situations. The people that work less probably have partners that have high paying jobs so they simply don’t have to worry about money and providing for their family. I also have a problem with the quote “When women work more than three days a week they risk creating an unhappy home.” This quote makes it seem like “creating a happy home” is entirely in women’s hands, like men or even the children have no part in creating a “happy home.” I don’t think a “happy home” is something a woman can just create by being home more; I believe it’s something that an entire family has to work at in order to achieve. Each member of a family plays a part in making a “happy home,” a mother being home more won’t magically create one.

  2. I COMPLETELY agree with your frustration. There are very few jobs in which a man or woman can work 2-3 days a week and still support a family successfully. What frustrated me the most is how it focuses solely on women in the home and workplace. Are men just non-existent in this world? Growing up, my dad played just as much a role in my house as my mom. While this may not be the case in every home, I think it is important to embrace the possibilities in every home. If we are going to be so proactive on gender equality, I do not understand why so many articles are still falling victim to gender inequalities. You can’t find any articles saying that fathers should only work 2-3 days a week in order to spend adequate time at home. And why not? Because mothers are stereotypically the ones who keep the household together. We are the ones to break these stereotypes and it begins with us NOW.

  3. At first, I really enjoyed the article and thought it was very comforting to see a “formula” to establishing a balance within a family. However, after reading your initial post, Kelsey, I realized that this formula that was applied to this particular family isn’t something that would work for each one. My Mom and Dad both worked full time when I was young, and I went to a babysitter when I was younger, and a day care service when I got a little older until I could stay home by myself during my grade school years.

    But this is what worked for our family. But it may not for everyone else’s. And that’s okay! There doesn’t need to be a “certain amount of hours” that one family uses that will somehow magically work for every family; that’s unrealistic and generalizes and entire population of women into having to practice the same techniques to be “effective” mothers. Which is simply not how individuals work. Unfortunately, our society sees leadership within a particular gender as a generality rather than an individualized concept.

  4. I too was taken aback by this article. It is interesting to see that research has actually been done on the amount of hours women should be working. I found it interesting that within the article the author suggests that it is important to have the “parents” realize that too many hours in the work place can be detrimental to the family. My question is, “Is there only one parent for the families that are being referred to in this research?” I think it is safe to say that this article screams gender bias. Tori is right, in that this article is implying that men are non-existent in the family world and it needs to stop. It does start with us right now to change these every day stereotypes for both men and women.

    On the other hand, the more I read this article, the more I begin to question whether or not there will come a time when gender stereotypes and roles will end completely? Is it really possible to live in a world where everything and everyone is gender neutral? I hate to be the one to say it but I do not see the world becoming that way. Now in 100 years I do see there being an end to discrimination against women, at least I hope, however, I do not think that these every day stereotypes of gender roles will fade away. For centuries, these stereotypes have been embedded into us. I can admit that I too believe in some of these gender roles. For example, a guy should pay when he asks a girl out on a date and a woman should never be alone at night. I do not think that having these every day gender roles in society is the problem. The problem is using these gender roles created by society to discriminate, or hinder individuals. This discrimination however, derives from the intensity of the created gender roles. So the question is how can we as the next generation learn to have both gendered roles in society without the discrimination against them? Or is it possible to create a society that is gender neutral? And if so is that what we are aiming for? I can assure you that with articles like this, our society is not aiming for a gender neutral society. This article is just another example of how the intensification of these gendered roles can lead to discriminating against women who actually want to be in the workforce.

  5. Kelsey, I completely agree with your frustration with this “balance”. Children are shaped not just by their mothers, but by their fathers as well. Why should women only work 2-3 days out of the week while men work full time? I know personally I was shaped heavily by both my mom and dad. My mom was a stay at home mom and my dad works, but regardless they both affected me as a person completely. Each family needs completely different balances, and it is unfair and playing into the gender role stereotype to say that women should stay at home at first and then work less than men. What is a woman chooses to stay at home full time with her kids? Does that hurt her family in terms of balancing? Or if a mother wants to go back to work right after spending the first few months with her child or children and then work full time, does that make her a bad mom? Both mothers and fathers can play great stay at home parent roles, or working full time roles. Saying there is a perfect balance would be a dream world for many, but it truly is up to the family.
    Every child requires a certain amount of attention, every parent feels fulfilled working a certain amount of hours per work, or none at all. And then you have other factors such as, what if your child has a mental disability and you have to stay at home? Does that make your family wrong because you are not following the balance? I loved the balance my family had, because it worked very well for my brother, mom, dad, and I. I hope I can find a good balance that works for my family when I have a family as well, and not feel that I have to follow a certain “balance” that the media tells me is perfect.

  6. I definitely agree with you. I found it ironic that it was a Families Studies Institute, seeing as how they seem to ignore half of the family. I think there should be a general idea with Family Studies that you are looking into and researching the whole family. You can’t do that if you ignore one key part to focus on the other. They have an interaction relationship and affect each other. We need to get to a point where we can say that a family as a whole needs, for an example, the afternoons off because childcare from a family member is best for the children. Researchers and scholars shouldn’t need to tell us how to meet the needs of our family. They can give us suggestions, they can give us methods to work through things. However, the decision should be up to the family to make together. The mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa are all qualified. Who says it needs to be the mom instead of the grandpa. This should be a personal decision. I think it would be hard for researchers to say which one was best considering families are so different and vary so greatly. Further, when looking at our American context there are so many different cultures mixed together, it would be extremely challenging to accurately recommend childcare options.

  7. Who ever wrote this is an idiot. Like what we have said in class and what has been said in other post, I think society needs to stop putting so much pressure on moms and how they take care of their children. There are families who consist of a single mom, and how is she supposed to care for her child is she is only working part time? Some single parents who work full time jobs still have a hard time making ends meet so God knows a mom working part time would never make ends meet.
    This is also frustrating because I took this as the author thinks women are more fragile than men and need to make sure they don’t “overwork” themselves. I don’t think women should be looked down on when it comes to having a job and being a mom and how much work it is. If men are concerned about how much stress it is for women to work and be a mom then maybe they should step up more in the house and help their wives out with the housework and the children. This article just astounds me with how sexist and ridiculous the author sounds.

  8. I don’t think your frustration is irrational! I completely understand where you are coming from. Of course everyone would love to be able to have a perfect work-life balance, but it’s not necessarily a realistic thing for everyone. What about single mothers? As you said, you have to work to support a family. A single mother would love to be at home with her kids, I’m sure, but she has to be able to financially manage them. Even if a mother is not single, why should she have to lessen the amount of time she puts into her career, while the man does not? I loved the point you made about how the article was directed towards women, “not people”. Men need a break from their careers too, and it’s proven that children need a father figure in their lives to grow up completely healthy. Parenting is not all about having a mom staying home with the kids all the time, contrary to popular belief. I also agree that this is something that will be different for everyone. I personally want to work full-time as long as I can. Having a husband that would take on a lead-role with the kids would be ideal for me, for I’m really career-oriented. However, I know that many women want to put their focus on their kids when they have them. Who am I to judge these women? Just as I want to be free to make my own decisions, I want other women to be free to make their own decisions without judgement as well. This is such a silly article because there is not one “right” way to have a family and a personal life. It depends completely on the individual or couple.

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