Women talk a lot about with each other about work and life, particularly (but not exclusively) after they’ve had children. Finding the right balance isn’t easy. I’ve sat on a bench with a successful journalist while she cried about not being there for her children. I’ve had drinks with a friend who had spent a year away from her family for work. I know more than one lawyer who happily quit work to stay home and raise children. And I know women who have itched to get back to work, finding the perfect nanny or daycare situation to help make that possible for her. Of course, my experience is as a woman and mother, and I’ve spent most of my time discussing these questions with other mothers. In Between Interruptions Edited by Cori Howard, 30 women tell their stories of trying to find the balance between careers and family, the joys and sadness, triumphs and challenges of their choices. Chantal Kreviasuk reflects on moving from her one self to the other:
"I’ve always been a “career person.” I thought my work would be even more important to me after I became a mom. There would be clear black and white lines between our house and our home studio. Black and white lines between Chantal the mom and Chantal the musician. But those black and white lines are very grey, and most days they are stained with tears and heartache.”
The idea that we have a life outside of work arrived with work outside of life. Work was what was required to sustain us—we worked to make money so that we could buy food to eat (that someone else grew) and pay for the roof over our heads (that someone else built). Somewhere along the line the idea that we were entitled to leisure time and activities took hold, and now we’ve decided that work needs to be something that we love.
The movement of “Do what you love, love what you do,” has ensnared a generation and is devaluing work that has to be done even though nobody wants to do it. I worked in a hotel for six years, and I’m sure that none of the housekeeping staff loved cleaning toilets. Miya Tokumitsu talks about the elites’ mantra “do what you love” in this article, saying:
"DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.”
And if we are doing what we love, and loving what we do, how do we tell our employers (assuming we are getting paid, and not doing an unpaid internship) that we need to stop work and go home to our families and our lives?
We all find a way to do it differently. Perhaps it isn’t about finding the answers, but having the conversations, continuing to think about how we spend our days, and what we value—making conscious decisions about how we manage our time. And, perhaps, as much as I enjoy writing this blog, I really should go clean that toilet.