"There's no such thing as work-life balance," declared Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. His audience, the Society for Human Resource Management, heard why it's nearly impossible to raise a family and also have a successful, executive-level career [source: Tuna, Lublin].
Welch's speech was in June 2009. Since then, thousands of Americans have lost their jobs or have worried about the possibility of being unemployed [source: Goldman]. Providing in tough times is difficult, but it's no less important to maintain some semblance of personal fulfillment. According to the Mayo Clinic, dual-career couples are increasingly common, which complicates making and keeping commitments outside of work [source: Mayo Clinic]. It also means that in households with children, both working parents feel the pressure of working full time while trying to raise a family [source: University of Chicago News Office].
When women choose to have children, they might be burdened by the perception that they're less dedicated to work. Even though maternity leave is federally protected, taking time off to spend with a new baby can hurt a mother's career [source: FamilyEducation.com]. Depending on the workplace culture, subjective factors like visibility -- how you're seen and perceived around the office -- can be as important as objective performance factors. As Welch said, you're unlikely to be promoted if you're "not there in the clutch" [source: Tuna, Lublin].
University of Chicago researchers found that it hurts both parent and child when they can't spend as much time together as they used to, especially if it creates a feeling of estrangement or neglect from the child's perspective. If parents are stressed out, exhausted or upset when they come home after a long day, children might feel responsible, and the parents' negative emotions cause a trickle-down effect. However, research showed that mothers reduced stress by spending time with their families, and fathers who spent a lot of time with their children were less likely to let work troubles encroach on family time [source: University of Chicago News Office]. Whatever you do, don't allow yourself to feel guilty for being a working parent and having a family.
Keep in mind that, even if your kids are your biggest concern, you still have to take care of No. 1 -- yourself. On the next page, we'll discuss how your work-life balance affects your well-being.