Friends, I begin the new year with a promise to blog more often, much more often, and here goes.
One of the many things I do in the book is write about people and organizations who are trying to make life easier for mothers, fathers and families. This morning I had coffee with Dana Barron, who directs the Alice Paul Center for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Pennsylvania. Among the many hats she wears, Dana researches work-family issues for women of different classes: poor women, affluent women, middle-class women. She's concerned about how these issues work out across America's very diverse communities. Dana strongly believes that academic life should be linked with communal life, and has made connections between her research center and local organizations like the Third Path Institute. They're at www.thirdpath.org.
Third Path is pushing 'shared care' as one response to the struggles many of us face about work, family and time. For this group, shared care describes families in which parents are the primary caretakers of their kids, and they also are actively engaged in other work. It's about creating a life that doesn't have to be split between the either/or of work and family.
I visited their website for a while. I'll tell you what I liked. It has a vision. When you read the book you'll know that I'm big into visions about how we're getting out of the work-family mess. The usual, magazine-type banter on balancing work and family usually focuses on the family side of it all. We moms get household tips and are advised on how best to manage our time and direct our families so that we're as efficient as possible. Now, I love household tips, too, especially those promises to accomplish the impossible, like getting rid of the piles of paper that live on my kitchen counters.
But honing our households can never be enough. It can never fully solve the real problems, and we know that.
Third Path emphasizes that workplaces need to change, yes, but untill they do, we--families, moms, dads--can be as creative as possible. We can take what control we have to create what we can. Their vision is hopeful. They want to support families in figuring out our visions of family life. What do we want? Are we working enough? Working too much? Are there parts of work that might be more flexible? How do we get the support we need from family and friends?
What I found most reassuring was this: They believe we have agency, even in this most fraught and often overwhelming area of work-family life. So check them out.
And for any lawyers reading, their first annual conference was last May: Having a Life: Creating Work-Life Balance in the Law, May 2004. The conference site contains lots of stories about and strategies for dealing with family life and a legal career more creatively. Pass it on, because like many professions, law has been hard on lawyer-parents who want to parent more actively, moms especially.