I appreciate Rachel Lu’s honest quest to discuss families and work. It’s a topic that I have discussed in public many times, and I have often been met with hostility simply for stating that men and women are different.I am glad that Lu grapples honestly with this fact.
Lu does not, however, address two key points that merit discussion and reflection. First, men also sacrifice their careers for their families. Second, single or childless women also should be encouraged to pursue personal commitments beyond their careers.
Unfortunately, the phrase “sacrificing for your family” is generally used to describe women’s lives, not men’s. When I first starting writing about work-family balance, I presumed that my audience was predominantly made up of women. But my office and my email inbox filled up with men telling me that they too desire more time for family and leisure. I started paying attention to what the men around me said. “Meeting this deadline is really hurting my family life.” “I regret not paying enough attention to my kids when they were younger. I want to make up for lost time.” “I’ve given up so much personal time for my career. Is it really worth the sacrifice?”
Because of these discussions, I’ve also learned to be more attentive to men’s personal needs. For example, when I organized the speaker series at the University of North Carolina, I worked hard to arrange a one-night stay instead of a two-night stay for a speaker who had a two-year-old child at home and was five months pregnant. When I offered the same option to men, every single one decided to only stay over one night instead of two. Men’s relationship obligations may not stick out like a pregnant belly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Why should husbands and fathers be away from home more than is absolutely required?