I am really enjoying Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. One chapter in particular hit me between the eyes as a woman who has put in far to many hours trying to impress my employer or in trying to satisfy my sense of self. Reading Chapter 9, entitled The Myth of Doing It All, was like reading a primer on everything I have come to know in my heart and have learned the hard way – the very hard way.
In this chapter she talks about the fact that there will always be demands made on our time – more demands, in fact, then we have time to accomplish. Many companies these days are doing with a smaller workforce but with the same amount of work putting employees in the not so subtle position of doing more and knowing that thousands of other people are just waiting for an opportunity to have their jobs if they don’t. Statistically she points out married middle-income parents worked about eight and a half more hours per week today than in 1979!
The other interesting stat that she shared was that stay at home moms spend six more hours per week providing child care activities than their counterparts did in 1975 and that working women spend five more hours a week providing primary child care activities than their counterparts did in 1975. Couple that with the added hours demanded at work and we have a recipe for exhaustion and burnout whether you stay at home or go to an office each day for work.
So here’s the advice she received from one of her first bosses and I think it is spot on. He told her that her place of employment would never stop making demands on her (and that includes home too), so it was up to her to decide what she was willing to do. In other words, it was her responsibility to set the boundary to determine how many hours she was willing to work in any given day.
Is this easy to implement? No, and she is clear that she failed at it miserably for many years. And eventually she saw the wisdom and the counterintuitive nature of the advice in that her success at work often depended on her not trying to meet every demand placed on her. Furthermore, this holds for every demand placed on us by our family and home situation.
For many of us it is more likely that the place we can set the boundary is at home and not at work. If can set it at work,do it. You definitely can set it at home. Taking time for yourself is up to you and not taking it does not make you any more successful or happy than the workaholic or the person you think you should be.