Skip to Content

Eliminating Barriers To Work-Life Balance For Working Parents

Balancing work and life is a constant challenge people face as they do their best to be present in both domains. We all face barriers to achieving work-life balance and are confronted with conflict along the way, but barriers impact people in various ways.

When it comes to work and family, women (in mother-father nuclear family constructions) are often restricted in their workforce engagement. And men do not have the same access to family life.

Let’s explore the barriers to work-life balance that men and women face as they strive for excellence – or perhaps simply as they aim to get by – in the domains of work and family.

Working Parents

Consider the following two examples.

Parent A may have access to paid parental leave, but if they are paid at a partial rate, they will take home less than their usual weekly amount. Because of this economic disadvantage, they will be unlikely to actually take the leave they have access to. That means they will also unable to care for their family in a more present way, as they will be forced into the role of contributing as the breadwinner.

Parent B may have access to a return-to-work policy after having a child, but with unaffordable child-care options that may not cover longer shifts, this parent will be unable to achieve work-life balance. They may decide instead to return to work part-time or not at all for a period of time.

Fatherhood Forfeits and Motherhood Penalties

In both examples, the parent faces barriers to achieving work-life balance, but in different ways. Conforming with gender roles, fathers are often confronted with the first barrier and cast as breadwinners, creating fewer opportunities for family intimacy (also referred to as ‘ by Dr Jasmine Kelland and colleagues).

Mothers’ experiences mirror the second example with ‘ or barriers to paid labor. These barriers have flow-on effects, including a lack of financial independence via reduced retirement savings and fewer opportunities to climb the corporate ladder.

Unjust or Just Different?

Societal differences do not always point to injustices; sometimes conditions are merely different between populations without also being unjust. In terms of men and women’s access to work-life balance and subsequent wellbeing, we need to consider if the different restrictions on men and women’s engagement and fulfillment with work and family unjust or just different.

If one parent contributes more to raising children and managing schedules but less to paid employment, while the other engages more heavily in work and less to the family, do both parents have the same chance of achieving wellbeing, happiness, a sense of community, social status, and a comfortable retirement?

Most would argue that the answer in no. Both men and women are off balance. For better work-life balance, we need to un-tip the scales and redistribute the work-family load away from traditional gender roles and away from what has always been done.

A Note For Leaders

Ensuring that women have access to advancement and career growth opportunities is one important aspect. But the other side of the coin cannot be ignored. Men need better access to , parental leave, and other family-friendly measures to reduce the pressures associated with being the sole or primary bread winner. Women need more space to flourish in the work domain and men need the same to flourish with their families. Optimal work-life balance means that no one is missing out. This effects everyone – not just parents – as work-life fulfillment results in greater wellbeing for parents, for children, and for organizations.