By Danae King
The Lima News, Ohio.
The key to work-life balance is that there’s no “balance” at all.
“I think being superwoman is not really possible, and I think it’s unrealistic,” said Elia Lopez, plant manager at Proctor & Gamble in Lima.
Instead, Lopez encourages others to define their self worth and find their happiness for themselves.
“You’re going to find in your long life hopefully that there’s places and times for everything,” she said. “Sometimes you take a slower pace, sometimes you go faster, and it’s OK.”
The idea of work-life balance seems to haunt women more than men, which can often be where multitasking comes in, what some define as a strength of female leaders.
Women in particular seem to worry about managing everything, as Lopez said “men don’t seem to have the ‘I have to get this all done'” thoughts.
Women often have to “juggle” multiple aspects of their lives, said Nicole Scott, director of communications at the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re so used to juggling, it just comes naturally,” Scott said. “I think as an independent woman, you naturally find ways to overcome challenges.”
She’s a professional and a single mother, and she’s done everything on her own.
“I feel that pretty much if you want it, you’re going to find a way to get it,” she said, encouraging women to “have faith” when it comes to juggling work and life.
Part of the reason the juggling act is still going on for women may be the fact that women are often still expected to be responsible for the home and a career outside the home.
“A woman who has a full-time position also has a full time job at home, unless she has a very supportive husband,” said Cynthia Leis, Van Wert City Economic and Community Development Director. “I think (housework) still falls back on the woman.”
She does think things have changed over time for women. For example, Leis said employers are becoming more flexible with time off and flex time, and more men are coming on board with shared home responsibilities.
“I always thought it was a good balance to be able to both work and raise a family,” Leis said. “It does take shared responsibility of your spouse and significant other, if not, as a woman you’ll feel unbalanced in your life.”
Women seem to differ when it comes to their ideas of work-life balance, but most agree that things have changed for women over the years.
For example, in the past there were more derogatory comments made to women who were becoming more educated or going into career fields about them becoming mothers and wives.
Judy Cowan, president and CEO at the Ohio Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Center, said people used to say women were going to college to get their “Mrs.” degree.
The “mommy track” is something people used to talk about that isn’t used anymore, said Marcelyn Boone, plant manager at INEOS in Lima. People would say women were on the “mommy track” if they were in management, she said.
“I heard that terminology used in my first job for several years,” Boone said. “But it’s not like that.”
Boone doesn’t have children herself but watched other women leave the field to have children and said it slowed them down a bit, but then they were able to jump into higher-level jobs.
“At (that) time, you started seeing diversity being appreciated, these were the people who had the experience for it,” she said.
“You can have kids,” Boone said. “There’s not a mommy track anymore, there’s just a business career path.”
Mothering and guilt are what many women speak of when it comes to work-life balance.
“There’s going to be nights where you’re going to serve frozen fish sticks and Kraft mac and cheese, and that’s OK,” said Cindy Wood, chief executive officer of Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
For Lopez, it comes back to the fact that not everything is doable, and “It’s OK.”
The expectations and office policy often make women feel like they have to do everything may soon change, said Charlene Gilbert, dean of The Ohio State University-Lima campus.
“I think that the society has moved to a place where we understand that raising a family is now something both men and women do, and we value that,” she said. “We have to have policies that support families … before I think we saw this as women’s issue, but now it’s just for families and for societies and communities.”