Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Listen to His Wife

Matt Miller, a guest columnist for the NYTimes while Maureen Dowd is on book leave (if only that were permanent. Sigh.), says his wife, Jody, has found the solution to balancing your family and job:

It's hardly news that the issue vexing talented people is the struggle to balance their professional lives with time for fulfilling lives outside of work. The shock is that after decades of wrestling with these tradeoffs, the obvious answer is the one everyone has been too skeptical or afraid to explore: changing the way top jobs are structured.

In a world where most people are struggling, the search for "balance" in high-powered jobs has to
be counted a luxury. Still, there is something telling (if not downright dysfunctional) when a society's most talented people feel they have to sacrifice the meaningful relationships every human craves as the price of exercising their talent.

If the most interesting and powerful jobs are too consuming, Jody says, then why don't we re-engineer these jobs - and the firms and the culture that sustain them - to make possible the blend of
love and work that everyone knows is the true gauge of "success"? As scholars have asked, why should we be the only elites in human history that don't set things up to get what we want?

Here's the deal: this isn't a "women's" problem; it's a human problem. Yet for 30 years women have
tried to crack this largely on their own, and one thing is clear: if the fight isn't joined by men (like me) who want a life, too, any solutions become "women's" solutions. A broader drive to redesign work will take a union-style consciousness that makes it safe for men who secretly want balance
to say so.

The first step in any tough transformation is what A.A. famously teaches: admit that we're powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. It's time workaholic males took up this cause, because top jobs will never change unless we do. Jody even has an incentive plan. In Aristophanes' play "Lysistrata," the women withhold their charms until the men agree to stop making war. Jody thinks that's a promising model. Talk about unreasonable.