Debunking Work-Life Balance For Women

There are so many ways to live a life and women are no longer held to being wives and mothers. Not every woman has the desire to be a mother either, but for those who do, how do they pursue both a career and motherhood? Can women have both a work life and a life outside of work?

Rosanna Arquette explored this question in her documentary Searching For Debra Winger (2001). 

Rosanna Arquette
“Can you have both work and family?”

Arquette opens her documentary with an exposition of the source of her inspiration, The Red Shoes (1948). Since she was a little girl the film The Red Shoes (1948) made a profound impact on her. The ballerina protagonist flings herself off a balcony in front of a train in the end. Why? She can’t bear being without the man she loves or the career that fulfills her spirit. Approaching her 40s, the story of the ballerina’s struggle to pursue happiness and love awakened Arquette’s passion to explore this struggle in today’s liberated woman, as it relates to women in the arts.

Life doesn’t have to be a do or die, all or nothing.

Searching for Debra Winger explores “what it means to be creative at any cost.” Creativity I believe exists in all industries. The joy we get out of life and work is the freedom creativity unlocks. When we discover new ways of doing everyday tasks, there is a novelty and a joy added to what might have been a dull occupation. Creativity is what makes us unique and fulfills our need for play.

We could go on doing the same thing for the rest of our lives if it brought us pleasure, and they say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. The thing is, will your occupation always be enough? What about love and relationships?

The original Red Shoes, children’s story by Hans Christian Anderson (1845) 

Now that there are options and advancements that enable us to live longer and have better quality of life (and looks), what was 40 years of age twenty years ago is no longer the same for a woman. And yet, women still face the struggle of which path to choose or how to balance a work life and personal life. We can’t hold on to the way we looked at 26 forever, but we can hold on to the things that fulfill us. So we have to decide what we can’t do away with in our life and be true to who we are.

Don’t Let Aging Fool You or Scare You

Aging is one of the things we start to fear as we approach a certain age. Aging means our looks will change and our ability to bear children is weakened. Historically in society women have had the rougher course when it comes to aging because how we looked and our ability to bear many children had so much to do with our survival and social status. Tennessee Williams’ play Baby Doll (1956) is a snapshot of female destiny before Women’s Liberation and Feminism changed the gears of the train.

mildred dunnock and carroll baker 1956 baby doll
Mildred Dunnock (Aunt Rose) and Carroll Baker (Baby Doll) at the end of Baby Doll (1956)
Final scene

Baby Doll: 

Well, let's go in now. 

We've got nothing to do, but wait for tomorrow.

And see if we're remembered...or forgotten.

It’s not always the same precise number (depending on your occupation), but aging catches up with us all inevitably. For some women there is still that feeling that there is limited time to have a family biologically. Aging is a variable that can influence how a person feels and the life choices they make. Aging makes some men and women petrified while for others it can cause no effects whatsoever. It’s a trick really, aging only has as much power as we let it.

Balancing might be the wrong word for what will ultimately lead to a stable and fulfilling life.

In an interview I had with a woman who works for a large media agency, she said that you can have both a career and a great life by mixing your work and your personal life together. She described a life in which her schedule could look like a 9-to-5 one day, or one where the middle half is chaperoning a field trip, or where she is working remotely from home, able to interspersedly take care of her household and be on her work computer. Fluidity is the word she used to describe this oscillating schedule that works for her life.

I have found that being able to live free of societal pressure and standards in your head makes living easier.

Many women still live under the old rules in under-developed countries, where they are kept uneducated and dependent on men. For those women in developed countries, like the United States, we can make life as hard or easy as we so choose, have our cake and eat it too.


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