Is work-life balance an issue for government?

A recent Washington Post story examined how working 13-hour days at high-levels in the Obama administration affect parents with young kids at home.

The story was full of examples of parents such as White House budget chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who had to leave her 4-year-old’s birthday party for a budget impasse.

Former deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle’s 12-year-old son asked her to quit after two years of overseeing the healthcare policy. President Obama invited her child in to discuss why he still needed his mom.

It’s a hard article to summarize but it looks at how the White House is trying to make work-life more manageable for its own employees and what the government could possibly do for the rest of the nation.

From the Washington Post:

“Even as Democrats tout family-friendly policies as a top priority, those within 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. continue to wrestle with the fact that their own workplace often falls short of those ideals. Obama announced last week that he would host a White House Summit on Working Families on June 23, in part to ease “the burdens” working women face.

More than five years into the administration, the White House has taken several steps to make one of the most demanding offices in America more manageable for working parents. It has expanded paid parental leave, installed more nursing rooms within the complex and provides a low-cost, emergency day-care service. A few of its highest-ranking women — including Burwell, national security adviser Susan E. Rice and U.N. ambassador Samantha Power — have kids at home….”

Liz Watson, director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center, said it would be great if the White House could pilot “the right to request flexible workplace schedules,” which is the law in countries including Britain and the Netherlands.”

What do you think will come of the White House Summit on Working Families? What would you like to see come out of it? What could your workplace do or provide to make your work-life balance more manageable? Should the government be involved in this or is that a private-sector of women moving to companies that take care of them?

37 comments Add your comment

missnadine

March 17th, 2014
11:00 pm

I think that as parents we make choices, and that if someone wants to work in this type of environment they should know the repercussions. I think it would be a deadly career move to complain at work, as I have never felt that as parents, we should get special treatment. I don’t understand why someone would want a job in the White House if long hours are the norm – surely they knew this. Imagine if your husband, Theresa, told his boss that travel was affecting his work/life balance – that would be insane right, as both of you knew the reality of the long-term trips. You both had your eyes open and made the adjustments (mid adjustments as I know you are not settled yet) so maybe these folks at the White House just didn’t want to see the reality. Who knows….

Should companies, all of them, offer flexibility? I think so, but not to just to the one group. I think for all of us working (outside the home) parents, we have so much more stress than before. We think technology is our friend when the opposite is true. I am old enough to remember a work like without companies at all. We worked hard but generally left the job issues in the job, and not at home. Now we feel almost forced to check in via email whether in the evening or/or weekends. Add this to the regular household chores, it becomes harder and harder to get everything done. I am a big proponent of personal responsibility, so I do think that if work-life balance is not an option at a certain job, then that person needs to either 1) look for another job that doesn’t have those constraints, or 2) deal with it like everyone else, or 3) come out with workable solutions, maybe making sure one or two people pledge to stay late and rotate that tasks. Obviously that won’t work everywhere.

I also think that companies lose really good people because there no chance at a work-life balance, and I think that is a bad thing, but like I said, that courtesy needs to be extended to all that want/need it. I do see it getting much worse, as companies are letting more and more people go while not replacing them, meaning the survivors end up with even more work. Since I work with jobseekers at all levels and stages, I know that their stress level gets elevated more and more every year.

MIsty

March 18th, 2014
12:47 am

It’s a personal choice for someone to work in the White House and most couples should know what is involved with working there. However, even the First Lady is a Mom and she, along with Obama should understand what it’s like for the parents. He wanted the 12 year old to tell him why he still needed his mother!?

WitchyWoman

March 18th, 2014
6:43 am

Let me say this first—-”President Obama invited her child in to discuss why he still needed his mom.” This sentence was either poorly written or taken out of context. Half the readers are going to interpret it as the President making the boy explain why he needs his mom. The truth is that is is the President explaining why “HE” still needs his mom to work for him. This sentence is going to lead to all kinds of President bashing and off topic banter so Theresa you are forewarned.

Now on the topic, you usually know what kind of job you are getting when you apply and then accept it. If you are already a parent or become one later, it is up to you to create a work life balance. It is not the employers job to make your family happy. Also, many people are choosing to work all this extra time on their own. There are plenty of times when they could disconnect, or just go home and they don’t. Yes, I believe that employers should offer some flexibility, do I expect it….no. We want all kinds of concession, yet when they have to cut hours, pay, or sometimes jobs..we get all upset. Like some of the other commenters have said, it is a personal choice. My husband and I have decided that only one of us will work in a corporate high intensity career. Initially it was me, but after the kid it’s him. She can’t raise herself sooo. I choose jobs where I am more available.

Truth

March 18th, 2014
7:18 am

“Former deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle’s 12-year-old son asked her to quit after two years of overseeing the healthcare policy. President Obama invited her child in to discuss why he still needed his mom.”

Oh, we get what Obama said alright! Obama thinks the Job trumps the child’s wishes.

Either way you look at it makes the Obama look bad.

XYZ

March 18th, 2014
7:24 am

Government jobs (with the exception of teachers, fire, police) should not be considered creme de la creme positions as compared to the private sector. This is another place the taxpayers are getting screwed (in addition to entitlement abuse and addiction).

HB

March 18th, 2014
7:38 am

They’re not creme de la creme, xyz. All these people will make far more money when they leave the WH. These folks do know what they’re getting into — exhausting, yet rewarding jobs that traditionally have a high burn out rate. The WH is smart to try to ease the burden on the employees and their families a bit. It may keep people around for 3-4 years where in the past they only would have lasted two.

POTUS to 12 y/o BOY

March 18th, 2014
7:52 am

If you like your mommy, you can keep your mommy. ;)

malleesmom

March 18th, 2014
8:10 am

“What do you think will come of the White House Summit on Working Families?” Nothing substantial. Lots of cliches and platitudes. “What would you like to see come out of it?” That work-life balance no longer becomes a “thing”. It should be how companies operate. “What could your workplace do or provide to make your work-life balance more manageable?” N/A since I’m currently a SAHM by choice. The hubs and I got tired of trying to make it work. “Should the government be involved in this or is that a private-sector of women moving to companies that take care of them?” The government should not be involved. This is not a women-only issue. The hubs struggles with the balance as well. He essentially missed three years of our lives for the career. Not complaining, just stating fact. He ultimately changed positions. Our life is more balanced now but his career demands are still there. It is a daily struggle no matter the pay-grade.

xxx

March 18th, 2014
8:12 am

Would have been better to get mommy to explain to child why she places her job over him, cause that is basically the choice she made. I also know shw will try to claim this is someone else’s fault, she simply canit help it.

DB

March 18th, 2014
8:32 am

Having children is a choice. Accepting a high-powered, high-stress job is a choice. It’s up to the individual to balance their life, NOT the government. I’m not going to second-guess her choices — the only one she has to explain them to is her family. If her family supports her, and feel that her job is worth the occasional family absences, then that’s all that matters.

A work place has a mandate, mission and goals. They hire people to best help them meet those goals. In the White House, there’s a finite time to achieve goals, pending elections. No one goes into a White House job thinking it’s a 9-5 job. If they do, they’re not playing with a full deck. Even though the President may be seen as taking vacations every few weeks (not that the President can ever really disconnect), that does NOT trickle down to the staff, many of whom never feel they are able to take vacation EVER. If you go on vacation, you must not be indispensable — and NO ONE in Washington wants people to start thinking they can get along without them!

I don’t think a White House staffer missing part of her child’s birthday party is any more alarming than a working mom who can’t afford to take time off from work to see her child in the school play. Exact same guilt, different pay grade.

@POTUS to 12 y/o BOY: Now, THAT was funny!! :-D Does anyone else cringe at the idea of a mother who drags her child in to the office so her boss can tell her child how much more important her job is?

Atlanta Mom

March 18th, 2014
8:35 am

Perhaps anyone wanting to work at the White House should have to watch a season of “West Wing” on Netflix first.
At this high level of engagement, parents are making choices. No one forces them to work anywhere. Not the choice I made. Not a government issue.

missnadine

March 18th, 2014
8:37 am

@xxx that comment you made, about placing her job over her child, do you feel that way when it the dad working all those hours and/or taking long trips? For me the answer would be -yes – it is the same whether the subject is male or female, as men who travel a lot and/or work so many hours also put career before family, but I am not sure you meant it as applicable to both genders. Can you clarify please?

I watched a documentary on HBO where an entire family, minus the dad, got killed in a robbery gone bad. The story was riveting and also interesting as they talked about the achievements of each person who lost their life. The mom had MS, and the girls were active and well-likes kids. When they spoke of the dad, he was viewed as very ambitious, a real take-charge, and dedicated sort of guy, who worked in a hospital setting from 6 am to 10 pm on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but think – wow –that’s not a great dad, as he is often just not there. The kids were teens so it is not as if he was still in his medical residency. I imagine what we all would have thought if it had been the mom who worked those hours; I doubt she would have been called a go-getter with a ton of ambition.

catmom

March 18th, 2014
8:39 am

And TWG is back to the “write a few original sentences, copy and paste the rest from another source” method of blogging. I did enjoy the NYC blog–that took effort to write, and was fun to read.

My only thing with work/life balance for parents is that employers often expect non-parents to pick up the slack for parents, and that is not fair.

April Mae

March 18th, 2014
8:47 am

People make choices. If you work in the White House you’re going to have long, unpredictable hours. If you are a doctor on call you’re going to have long, unpredictable hours. That’s the way it is for everyone, whether they have kids or not. You can’t expect international crises or life-saving surgery to happen on a schedule that’s convenient for you and everyone in your care.

April Mae

March 18th, 2014
8:52 am

“The mom had MS, and the girls were active and well-likes kids. When they spoke of the dad, he was viewed as very ambitious, a real take-charge, and dedicated sort of guy, who worked in a hospital setting from 6 am to 10 pm on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but think – wow –that’s not a great dad…”

Really? It seems like the daughters were not surly recluses, and why can’t a parent be ambitious? My Mom, a hospital nurse, worked nights, weekends, holidays, etc. Like with anything, parts of that were great and parts were hard on all of us. She was and is a great Mom. She modeled amazing work ethic, my parents split the household responsibilities more than other families in the neighborhood, and in my adulthood she has given me great career advice. There are many ways to be a good parent.

EdUktr

March 18th, 2014
8:55 am

OH NO! Pres. Obama may have to cut his THIRD VACATION THIS YEAR short because of the Ukraine.

Mother of 2

March 18th, 2014
8:59 am

I agree with many of the previous posts. Work family balance is difficult to impossible in high powered jobs. If you want balance, you have to choose a career that makes it a possibility.

Techmom

March 18th, 2014
9:02 am

Those who work in the WH (or anywhere in DC for that matter), know what they’re getting themselves into. It’s a highly competitive market up there. You want a high-profile, high-paying job? There are trade offs. You want to see your kids more often and have time off when they do? Become a teacher and make a quarter of the money or figure out how to live on one income. People make choices every day.

When our son was in 2nd grade, I was willing to give up my job. My husband and I both had corporate jobs and were commuting into town. Our agreement was that I would drop our son off at school and he would pick him up. Except when it came down to it, if he had a 4:30pm meeting, he would call me and I’d have to leave to get our son on time. I constantly felt behind. No one cooked dinner, we were always rushing places, we were stressed and took it out on each other. I decided that was enough and I was willing to quit my job and do something menial as long as it didn’t include a terrible commute. I walked in to work and handed my boss my letter of resignation and told her that I’d work from home until they found my replacement. At the time we were all setup to work remotely but no one was allowed to unless it was an emergency. Apparently it worked out… 9 years later, probably 75% of our local employees work remotely all the time.

If I want to move ahead with my career, my only real option is to move into another position that would require me to go into the office. I’m currently weighing my options. Our son is in college but it would be a horrendous commute. My husband and I are hoping we can sell our house and move into town next year so that we will have more flexibility in our job choices. But again, it is our choice.

Some days I wonder

March 18th, 2014
9:04 am

Government jobs are incredibly taxing and the people are often underpaid and almost always underappreciated. My husband works at the CDC and has a job that literally impacts the lives of everyone in the US every day. Because of the type of doctoral degree that he has (DVM), he is paid 50% less than the people he supervises (MDs). However, without him and his team, our nation would literally be a risk of many diseases every single day. He (and his team) work way more than 40 hours; they are literally on call 24/7 and have to get up in the middle of the night to deal with things that you’d never even think of. However, if you want to see some hate, follow the CDC’s facebook page. His colleagues routinely get accused of everything from being schills for big pharma to injecting people with cancer via vaccines. They all continue to work to keep us healthy.

Jaynie

March 18th, 2014
10:19 am

To Some Days I Wonder:

Kudos to your husband and anyone else who works for the CDC. Without their enormous contributions to public health all over the world, we would not be able to meet and turn back the tide on some many diseases. I am an animal lover, but i do realize that sometimes, animals make the best test subjects. I have never seen any animal used in secientific research that was not treated as humanely as possible under the conditions of the testing being done. No one wants to see animals tortured and that is not what is being done in medical research. No one wants to have another small pox, Ebola, AIDS, outbreak without our meidcal researchers being able to meet that outbreak head on to stop it either.

@ Some days

March 18th, 2014
10:37 am

Re-read your comments and just look at the way you describe your indispensable, uber self important husband (and his team, of course) and you’ll see exactly why many in the ATL (and beyond) have no respect for them. They are overpaid narcissists that spend copious amounts of money with no idea on how the spent it. They not manageable people, book smart with no common sense or social skills. While the pharma freaks on the Facebook page have a different agenda, they are spot on with their assessment of your husband (and his team). Thanks for the report from the pity party!

On to the topic at hand: There are buried reports all over the internet on how the Obama administration is having a hard time retaining employees. Not that working for any presidential administration is a walk in the park, but the Obama admin is making no so good history yet again? This newest PR campaign by the current WH chief is designed to make you think he cares about the common folk that work for him, when in fact he does not. Based on what we the commoners have experienced so far, do you blame the folks that work FOR him are leaving en masse?

iRun

March 18th, 2014
11:07 am

@ Some days
March 18th, 2014
10:37 am

You’re a XXXX (edited to remove profanity). You woke up today and decided to go online and anonymously be a dick to someone you don’t know. I mean, making statements about her husband and his work you can’t at all ever in a million years back up? I mean, you don’t even know his name. You just LIKE being MEAN to people you won’t ever face. You like it. So go on. Choke on it.

As to the question…both my husband and I have careers. The way it’s turned out for us is we had only one kid, had him young (aged 26), and we’re delaying career ladder climbing until he’s out of the house. Which is in 5 years. We’ll only be 44. That’s a good 20 more productive years, assuming good health (we have healthy, active lifestyles but stuff happens, you know?).

I think if you want a high-powered career you’re going to have to realize your family life will need to be structured around it, in order for you to have both. So, don’t have too many kids. Have your kid(s) early in your career before you gain any possibility to be asked to do the real high-stress high-powered stuff (I understand young lawyers may have he opposite thing going).

For gods sake, don’t have too many kids! Otherwise you’re 60 and you still have a high school student in your house.

Empty nest in your 40s is the way to go, folks. Then you can do whatever you want with your career and you’ve got a good 15 years or so experience.

And most of all, don’t be a XXXX. Even on the internet.

missnadine

March 18th, 2014
11:24 am

Teresa, please delete my comment above. We should have the ability to delete a comment. I put my name in expecting it to publish my nickname, which it typically does. I am of course referring to the comment above as sonjaroseheck@gmail.com.

Thank you

missnadine

March 18th, 2014
11:30 am

I made an error here: I was giving an example that when a dad works crazy hours, he most likely would not be pegged as someone who DID NOT put family first, but rather, as a go-better.

The words are not capitalized to show I am screaming, rather to show the missing words

#BENGHAZI

March 18th, 2014
11:32 am

Thanks Obama!

missnadine

March 18th, 2014
12:35 pm

Also Teresa, please delete my email at 11:24 as well. Thank you and sorry about my mixup

FCM

March 18th, 2014
1:29 pm

The government needs to stop being a nanny state!

FCM

March 18th, 2014
1:33 pm

@ DB, WItchy, and Miss Nadine…I agree with your posts….my post addresses “what the government could possibly do for the rest of the nation.”

SMALLER Federal government, more PERSONAL responsibility, and LARGER local government please. (Yep, still libertarian not going to change)

@ Some days

March 18th, 2014
1:41 pm

@ iRun Ouch, was that suppose to hurt? Only the truth hurts, so is that why it prompted your vitriolic response? The AJC is filled with ad nauseam articles about the caustic work environment, mismanagement, budget fallouts, employee scandal, personal affairs, etc, etc, etc at the CDC. Shooting the messenger wont make the facts any less truthful. Thank you for acknowledging my post and confirming it’s validity.

DB

March 18th, 2014
2:06 pm

@ Some days
March 18th, 2014
10:37 am

Why? Why did you feel the need to dump on some woman you don’t know and hijack a topic about balancing work and family with a diatribe about the CDC? I mean, daaammmmn, who pissed in your Cheerios this morning? Frankly, the CDC sounds like just about any other big business on the face of the planet on any given day. If your crusade is to clean up the world, have at it and good luck, but no reason to target the CDC specifically specifically here, when there are so many other juicy targets just lying around waiting to be kicked — and no need for personal attacks, either.

iRun

March 18th, 2014
2:07 pm

@ Some days
March 18th, 2014
1:41 pm

Nice way to paint more than 10,000 people with 1 brush.

And also nice way to address your inherent unkindness. Not.

I can play this game, too – Thank you for acknowledging my post and confirming its validity.

*rolleyes*

Get real. We’re both internets. Nobody cares what either one of us thinks. We’re powerless and unimportant. There’s comfort in that, yes?

missnadine

March 18th, 2014
2:32 pm

@FCM – I do find that most people, whether liberal or conservative, DO want government intervention when it is something they are very passionate about, say abortion.

@AprilMae – I had written a response to you but asked TWG to delete it as I had my real name on it!! Your mom sounds awesome, and I bet she was a GREAT role model. My mom always had a lot of jobs, and we struggled alot. My point was to state that the rules seem to be different between genders, for example, a man who works 18 hours a day is dedicated to your job and a go getter, but if a woman does that she is seen as someone who put their career in front of their children. XXX made the point that the woman in this article chose career over the kids, but I questioned why that is never said when a dad works long hours. I can honestly say that I have never heard a man talk about worklife balance, ever, and I’m an old bat in my 50s with over 25 years in the corporate world!

@ Some days

March 18th, 2014
4:06 pm

Some days I wonder / March 18th, 2014 @ 9:04 am

Government jobs are incredibly taxing and the people are often underpaid and almost always underappreciated. My husband works at the CDC and has a job that literally impacts the lives of everyone in the US every day. Because of the type of doctoral degree that he has (DVM), he is paid 50% less than the people he supervises (MDs). However, without him and his team, our nation would literally be a risk of many diseases every single day. He (and his team) work way more than 40 hours; they are literally on call 24/7 and have to get up in the middle of the night to deal with things that you’d never even think of. However, if you want to see some hate, follow the CDC’s facebook page. His colleagues routinely get accused of everything from being schills for big pharma to injecting people with cancer via vaccines. They all continue to work to keep us healthy.
—————————————–

Who hijacked this topic / discussion about balancing work and family?

“The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you’re not worth the truth” – Unknown

motherjanegoose

March 18th, 2014
5:12 pm

@missnadine….most folks here know that I have been traveling for business for at least 10 years. I too got a lot of grief when I was gone for 3 days and my husband was home with the kids. I never could quite figure this out, as men are gone all the time and no one seems to think a thing about it.

My two children are very independent and know how to take care of themselves. They were never left home alone…they were with their DAD. What about single parents? Those kids are home with one parent too, Hello?

The bottom line is exactly as those before me have said…we all make choices.

My husband commutes in awful traffic each day, as we wanted out kids in Gwinnett Schools, in 1995. We have no one at home now but we are on the last few years of our mortgage and so we are making a choice to sit tight and tough it out. I work for myself and TODAY, I am out over $4000.00 from clients. This is not at all unusual and it is often more $$$. I will wait until I get paid and that is the nature of the business. A CHOICE I made, not to punch a clock and get a check weekly or monthly. It is routine here.

I do not understand why people have to whine about it. My son has a large student loan. A choice he made but one that has paid off. We moved to Atlanta and knew NO one …25 years ago. We made that choice and do not regret it. Some folks stay in their comfort zone and that is GREAT. Others branch out and take risks…GREAT too. You do what works for you.

FYI…I saw a PILOT in the restroom at the airport who was pumping her breasts and saving the milk in a little cooler to take home on the next day. She had just flown a plane in and there she was in the restroom. A CHOICE she made for her baby and I was VERY IMPRESSED!

missnadine

March 18th, 2014
5:38 pm

While @some days was pretty rude (and I know this because I’ve been pretty rude too), the original poster did really did brag about their spouse’s importance, IMO, and the topic was supposed to be “balancing work and family.” When I first saw the comment I thought it was out of line. Read it again and you will see it is a bit pompous. I feel a cop or fireman or teacher is just as important. Again, I recognized that as I’ve done it as well. If his position as a DVM for the CDC doesn’t pay well, and/or is so full of stress, long hours, and little respect from his staff of MDs, then maybe he should look elsewhere. I recognize that DVMs work as hard as MDs in school, (even harder probably) and that in most cases, they will make a lot less than their MD counterparts, but they know that going in. It’s like when a teacher complains about low pay and I think really? You didn’t know that? For the record, I always end up with special needs pets so I do know my vet does well!

Cry me a River

March 18th, 2014
6:07 pm

Am I suppose to feel sorry for Obama government employees that have jobs while millions of private sector employees have been out of work for months or even years? Am I suppose to feel sorry for some woman crying that her government Dr husband does not get along or get paid as much as his peers?

What about my kid that had to lay off a semester at college because my husband lost his job? And my son that couldn’t play on a travel sports team because we could not afford it? What about my whole family that had to sacrifice daily for close to 10 months because of no pay?

This is the Presidency of Big Goverment. Cry me a River, Obama! Maybe Nancy DeParle QUIT because your signature train wreck Obamacare was too much for her to have to deal with. The Obamanightmare VS. her 12 year old son? NO CHOICE. FAMILY COMES FIRST.

Touché

March 18th, 2014
10:03 pm

“I mean, daaammmmn, who pissed in your Cheerios this morning?”

The same person that crapped in your Corn Flakes!