The University Record, November 26, 1996

CEW panel discusses 'perfect balance' in family life

By Jared Blank

 

The Center for the Education of Women's Work/Life/Family Program continued last week with a presentation and discussion of "Resources and Resolutions in the Community." Panelists offered ideas for at least beginning to balance home and work lives, though as one panelist noted, there is no such thing as a "perfect balance."

Elinor Rosenberg, clinical social worker at the University Center for Child and Family, examined two myths about balancing work and home lives: that everybody's needs can be met successfully, and that there is one best way to accomplish the balance.

First, she said, people must accept that they will never be completely successful juggling home and work. If they don't accept this, they will feel guilty for not accomplishing the balance and begin to blame others for the failure. "Much of the marital and partnership stress I see stems from the attitude `If it's not going well, it must be somebody's fault, and it must be yours.' "

Rosenberg suggested maintaining an appreciation for individual differences. "We need to find our own ways of doing things," she said. "Children are so different that there is no one way to care for them. We need the capability to provide for these differences."

Rob Pasick, a psychologist at the Ann Arbor Center for the Family, discussed the role fathers play in raising a family. He said that many men believe their contribution to the family is financial, that being the monetary provider is their role.

Pasick added that many men don't feel the immediate rewards of child-raising. "You don't get asked to appear on the "Today" show because you raised your kids," he joked. "The rewards of raising kids are not always evident while it's going on." At work, there is a more immediate reward structure, either through appearing on the "Today" show, or being complimented by your boss. Pasick said he didn't fully understand the rewards of helping to raise his children until he had lunch with one of his sons before he left for college. The son told him how much he appreciated that his father stayed home one day each week while he and his brothers were growing up.

Ronni Sanlo, coordinator of Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual (LGB) Programs, discussed the work and family issues that are specific to LGB staff members. She talked about the added stresses faced by LGB staff because of issues of openness about their sexuality, fear of anti-gay violence, health insurance for their partners, and stigmatization.

Jane Bagchi, executive director of the Michigan Heart and Vascular Institute, said that good health---"an integrated state of mind, body and spirit"---is key to creating a viable balance in life. The Institute runs a four-month wellness program that stresses overall health, both disease prevention and good mental health.

The program emphasizes five aspects of wellness: nutrition and diet; exercise and fitness; stress management through yoga and meditation; time management; and "connectedness," that is, maintenance of relationships with friends and family. Bagchi noted that the goal of the program is for its participants to integrate what they learn into their daily lives, not just for the length of the course.

Other suggestions for improving day-to-day living were presented by Leslie de Pietro, coordinator of the Family Care Resources Program. First, she said, people must get past their fear of failure. "If you focus too much on this fear," she said, "you won't be able to move forward in a positive way." She also made the following suggestions:

 

Maintain a sense of humor. Keep everything in perspective.

 

Maintain a support network of friends.

 

Negotiate with your boss. Perhaps working a 35-hour week could be considered.

 

Get more sleep.

The Work/Life/Family Series will continue in the spring.