Work-Life Balance is a Big Myth that Women Need to Bust

Every married woman who steps out of her house to earn a living, chases a mythical beast which guarantees both success and happiness. They read articles, attend seminars, workshops and whatnot to learn about better ways to capture this beast. And yet women find themselves at the losing end in their perennial struggle to find the proverbial ‘Work-Life balance’.

Both the sexes are struggling with demanding jobs and increased travel time

Work-life balance is an issue both the genders grapple with. With long commutes to the workplace and home, and the pressure of sustaining a job in times of increasing layoffs, people are finding it difficult to find time for themselves. Then there are people who choose to work from home, to take care of small children or ailing parents. For these people it is impossible to give one hundred percent to their work, amidst the din of a household full of various demands and chores. In such cases, women usually sacrifice their careers because they find it difficult to ignore their duties towards their children and elders. Especially if they are not the sole providers to their household.

According to the data provided by International Labour Organisation, in the decade of 2005 to 2014, the percentage of working-age Indian women who participate in the labour force, has dropped from 36.7 percent to 26.6 percent.

These figures indicate, how in our country, the burden of managing a household, single-handedly falls on the shoulders of women. The stone age philosophy of ‘Men will go out to find food and women will stay at home to cook.’ is still being followed in our society. People argue that since women don’t make as much money as men, even on same professional profiles, they might as well stay at home and tend to the household. But it’s not just the women who are paying the cost of this bias.

A 2012 report by Booz and Company says that matching female to male employment rates would increase India’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 27 percent.

An uphill struggle against guilt and accusations of neglect

Our society’s parameters for working men and women are very different. A working man gets to rest his bones at the end of the day. But a working woman is expected to help with the household when she gets back. She has to find time for the kids, cook meals and make sure that the members of the household feel attended to. Hence, for most women who choose to pursue their careers despite resistance at home, the paycheck comes with tons of guilt and accusations of neglect.

If a child does not perform well at school, or there is no salt on the dining table, the blame falls on a woman’s aspirations.  Often the pressure to give equal time and energy at home and the office gets to most women. Hence, for the sake of peace and sanity, women choose life over work.

Women can’t achieve work-life balance on their own

This balance can be achieved only if both workplaces and households encourage women to keep their jobs. Companies have to ensure equal pay and flexibility at work for women. Likewise, society needs to lax its regulations for working women. Families and husbands should be more supportive and contribute to household jobs to take the burden off the women’s shoulders.

But until women find this support, they will have to power on. They will have to stand their ground and turn a blind eye to all the misogyny that is hurled at them in the name of neglect and being self-centered. Women have to accept that work-life balance is a myth and stop beating themselves up for failing to achieve it. It’s not just our responsibility to find this balance. It is the responsibility of our employers and family members to make sure that we find this balance as well.

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Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.