27 September 2023

Balancing act: Are we thinking about work/life balance the wrong way?

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Zack Stanton* says by obsessing over finding the elusive equilibrium in work/life balance, we are ignoring the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Photo: Marcelo Moreira

It’s one of the great struggles of modern life: finding a precise, perfect balance between work and life.

And, according to President and COO of Ticketmaster North America, Amy Howe our obsession with finding that elusive equilibrium is part of the problem.

“I don’t even love the term [work–life balance] because it implies that on any given day or week, that you have to have perfect balance,” Howe said in an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast.

“What I’ve come to realise over time is it’s a long game.”

“There are times in your life that you’re not going to have balance, and that’s okay.”

“I’ve made some very conscious choices not to.”

Howe spent more than 14 years working as a business consultant at McKinsey, a US management consultancy firm.

When she started there, roughly 10 per cent of the partners were women and Howe was determined to join and expand their ranks.

“When I first joined McKinsey I wasn’t married, and so those were the years to just kind of buckle down and invest and I’m really glad I did,” said Howe.

“I made partner when I found out I was pregnant with my first child – and those are two points in your life that if you think you can control either of those, you’re kidding yourself.”

Over time, Howe and her husband – himself a successful CFO at a large company – had three children.

And as their family grew, the calculus changed about what a fulfilling work life looked like.

“I had made partner and had all three of our children while I was at McKinsey, and juggled it really well for a while,” said Howe.

“And then, after a certain period of time, for me, my barometer was, ‘Is this working for me, right, am I still having fun, am I still developing and learning, and how is that impacting my family life?’”

Howe thought candidly about what she wanted to do next, and what the right fit for her might be.

“At some point, if you’re going to do anything other than consulting, you’ve got to move over,” said Howe.

Finding the right professional fit – including a satisfying work/life balance – is a “very personal and individual” decision, says Howe.

Which may be why the unending public discourse about a perfect work/life balance is so difficult: It often treats the question as though there’s a one-size-fits-all answer.

“There’s no one right answer,” said Howe.

“I have lots of friends who are incredibly talented from business school who have made very different choices, and they were right for them.”

“For me, this has been absolutely the right decision.”

* Zack Stanton is the Digital Editor of Politico Magazine. He tweets at @zackstanton.

This article first appeared at www.politico.com

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