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Introduction: Why Read this Book

Introduction: Why Read this Book

You wouldn’t be reading this book if you weren’t looking for an answer to the riddle of how to best manage the demands of your work and your personal life.

Many books address the challenge of having both a career and family; however, most of them focus on describing work-life balance in terms of social, gender, historical, and economic factors—rarely getting around to what to do about the problem.

This book focuses on a specific solution to the challenge of balancing career and family.

Our objective is to help empower you to create your own work-family balance by offering a very user-friendly action plan. We believe that defining a problem is not the same as solving it. Thus, we have chosen to speculate on the problem only as much as necessary to understand better what we can do about it.

We briefly define the work-family balance challenge in this Introduction; then our book is geared toward six proactive steps we can take individually. This focus facilitates a simple action plan for achieving work–family balance.

Our goal is very simple: To help people find balance in their lives between career and family. To do this, we provide a focused six-step process:

Step 1.
Commit to wanting both a career and family: Rethinking your priorities.

Step 2.
Pursue a process that creates balance: Balancing what is most important to you.

Step 3.
Make choices and accept the consequences: Giving up what you don’t want badly enough.

Step 4.
Choose a career that supports balance: Making your balance real.

Step 5.
Involve your loved ones in creating balance: Refining your balance.

Step 6.
Review your balance to retain or regain it: Balance is a destination.

Why this goal? Because we have discovered that many working professionals and emerging leaders struggle to achieve balance. We also see evidence that chronic imbalance causes serious problems at work and at home.

Sadly, some people live in denial, at least until they experience a major wakeup call. They believe that problems in their personal lives with marriage and family relationships won’t affect their work or that problems at work won’t affect their family lives, but invariably an imbalance in one domain affects the other.

Each chapter in this book consists of a series of personal stories and essential tips necessary to carry out each crucial step.

Who Are We?

We feel that the most effective way to address the challenge of work and family balance is to include the perspectives of many people—those who are at the cusp of embarking on a career track and starting a family, those who are juggling the demands of both worlds, and also those who are at the end of their career phase and whose children have left home.

In preparing the content and ideas of this book, we worked with hundreds of professional people who are trying to achieve balance in their own lives. We interacted with them personally and discovered how they are grappling with balance in their own lives, and we learned much of value from their successes and their failures.

The diversity of those we worked with in preparing this book is reflected in us, the authors, and we want to share with you our motivation and interest in writing this book.

Quinn Mills

I have been a professor at the Harvard Business School for many years. Many of my friends are now far along in their careers and have deep regrets about how little of themselves they shared with their spouses and with their children as they were growing up. They wish they had attained a better balance in their lives.

Many of my students have told me that they are afraid that the same thing will happen to them—that years from now they’ll finish their careers with deep regret about all they missed of family life. But other students have an entirely different concern—that in a few years they’ll feel compelled to abandon promising careers in order to have a family. They fear the sort of imbalance that means giving up a career to have a family.

People struggle so much with these issues that they frequently retreat into illusions about them, promising themselves that if they do this or that, they’ll somehow find the balance that is otherwise so difficult to attain.

I spoke at length to the people who were said to be most successful at achieving balance and with others who had failed and were consumed with bitterness and regret.

From conversations, reading, observation, and life experience, I created a unique approach to achieving balance. I wrote this book to share this approach with you, hoping that you might find balance in your own lives. I hope that you will take away from this book the conviction that balance is possible and that you can change your life to make balance a reality for you and your loved ones.

I have had the personal blessing of wonderful children and have struggled with balance between career and family for many years. Several of the techniques in this book I discovered in my personal life and found them effective; some I learned from others. Finding proper balance is one of the most important things in each of our lives today.

Sasha Mattu

When I was younger, I never thought of having a family as a choice—it was just something that was part of my picture of success. I didn’t feel that I was asking for too much. It simply seemed that this was the way it was supposed to be if I just worked hard enough.

Having played professional tennis, then graduating from Harvard, I realized that to maintain this kind of career intensity, I needed to make different choices to include a family in my life. I did not know that a rewarding career and loving family would compete for the same limited resources—my time and energy.

The fanatic 100% dedication that it takes for me to be successful professionally is now the same definition that I have for my family—100% dedication of myself. How can I do both? Certainly, 100% to career + 100% to family = burnout or blowout.

I have asked professionals around me who have both a carrer and family, and I have been overwhelmed by the spectrum of solutions I have seen. I was disappointed to find that many were still in the process of figuring it out for themselves—what does this mean for me with 20 years less experience? I then sought answers in books and found that most just defined the problem and didn’t tell me how I can create this balance for myself.

I hope that this book is a tool for other young people who are about to set out on a career, who are ambitious, hopeful, but who need guidance in thinking about the long road ahead. There are pitfalls that can sometimes be avoided if one is aware of them early on. This book is about life and its pitfalls, and more importantly, what to do about them. The pages that follow address the major pitfalls in our lives and the dangers of burnout and blowout.

Kirstin Hornby

I’m at an age when I must make decisions about how to structure my career and family. As I think about these issues, I have observed people around me, such as my parents and my colleagues—those who spend too much time at work and not enough with their families, and those who have given up their careers to have a family.

I have also noticed people around me who are struggling to juggle both career and family. I have heard dozens of stories about women who’ve had to drop off a career track to have a family and who couldn’t get back on, and about those who realized they wanted to have a family, but it was too late. I’ve heard stories about dual-income families struggling to find time for everything and stories about divorced parents who can barely keep life together. I’ve begun to wonder whether there is any way to balance family and career so that one doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the other.

I chose to research and write this book to help both others and myself by discovering whether balance is really possible. I learned that we cannot necessarily have everything in exactly the way we might have imagined, but that by looking at balance in a new way, it is possible to have both a happy family and a successful career.

A Chinese proverb tells us that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For us, the first step is a commitment to wanting both a career and a family. We invite you to join us in the journey.

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