Why I’m Over Work-Life Balance

By Sallie Krawcheck

I’m over it. I’m over the work-life balance question.

I’m over it because I recognize that it’s a question so many women don’t get to ask themselves as they work three shifts to keep their families above water.

Why I’m Over Work-Life Balance

I’m over it because I recognize that it’s a question my daughter may not be able to ask herself when she enters the workforce. Given how quickly the business world is changing, she’ll likely have to navigate a less stable work environment than I have. And today’s young workers literally define themselves by how much they work.

I’m over it because even when women go home from work, there’s still all the rest of the work — both the unpaid domestic labor (yes, like the laundry) and the emotional labor (like remembering that little Caden has both a birthday party and a baseball game this Sunday, which means that laundry has to get done on Saturday … oh, that reminds me, I need to pick up a gift for his friend on my way home from work on Friday). The stress that comes with these responsibilities has big consequences.

And I’m over it because it’s impossible to maintain, anyway, for more than six minutes. Life has been a juggling act, whether I was working on Wall Street or caring for my daughter when she was out of school for months with a concussion. It’s still a juggling act as my kids get older and I’m leading a start-up.

And so, since I could never find stable footing from which to “balance,” I cut myself some slack. Instead of striving for mythical perfection, I started a family joke that the best the kids can expect from me is that I will be a mediocre mom. At best. On my best day. If I stretch.

I’m not mediocre at everything. I do some things very well: My lunch spread is pretty awesome. My barbecue can pass for a professional’s. And the cat thinks I’m amazing. On the other hand, I’m terrible at birthday cards. Or holiday cards. Or wedding gifts. The cards and gifts thing really trips me up. And evening school events.

But just because I don’t model the perfect mom thing for my kids — or achieving work-life balance — that doesn’t mean I’m not modeling behavior for them. We all do, whether we’re doing it consciously or not.

So, instead of discussing work-life balance, my family’s conversations around my work are, “What difference am I making through my work?” and “What impact am I having?”

As my jobs have changed, that impact has changed, of course. But the ability to see, and craft, a career as a means of not just paying the bills, but also making the world better — that’s an important thing to model, too.


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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.