Why Work-Life Balance Is a Myth

Teresa Taylor is a woman of many titles: CEO, author, public speaker, board member, and on top of that, mother.

In her book, “The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success,” Taylor writes about her experiences raising two sons while serving as chief operating officer of a Fortune 200 company. Now CEO of Blue Valley Advisors, Taylor works to combat the “myth” of work/life balance through speeches at TED Talks and other events.

Below are edited excerpts from Taylor’s interview with Diversity Executive.

In your book, “The Balance Myth,” you write that for working mothers, the concept of work-life balance is a myth. Why is this impossible to achieve?

It is impossible to achieve it the way it has been defined by society — perfection! I believe the answer is to blend your life together and set your own expectations of what “balance” means for you. By the way, it changes over time. At certain points in your career you have to put in extra hours, and at other times you can take a little more family time. Set your own expectations and just live.

What advice do you have for women juggling a career and motherhood?

Don’t take the mother out of the career woman or the career woman out of the mother. In other words, be one authentic person and don’t try to wear two hats. Approach each day knowing that you are doing the best that you can and expect the unexpected! Enjoy the early stages of motherhood because they go by fast.

What challenges or setbacks have you encountered as a working mother?

Teresa Taylor, author of â??The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Successâ??
Teresa Taylor, author of "The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success"

I always felt guilty. If I was at home, I thought I should be at work. If I was at work, I thought I should be home. Once I stopped renegotiating with myself and stayed in the moment, things became much easier. I also chose not to move my family for a job promotion. At the time it was a setback but then all worked out later in time. 

What can be done — by employers or by women themselves — to overcome those challenges?

Employers have to recognize that you cannot always be mobile and embrace technology, video calls and managing remotely. Women have to stop feeling guilty and tell themselves that they are awesome — every day.

Why do you think it is important that women don’t have to choose between motherhood and a career?

It is essential that women are in the workplace. We represent different point of views, techniques to problem solve and manage differently than men. One is not better than the other. To best represent your customers, employees and shareholders, companies need both men and women making decisions in the workplace. Also, women are not going to get to the top of companies if they don’t stay in the workplace.