Can we talk about Jane?
Let me tell you about Jane.
Jane isn’t one woman, she is many. One of many facing similar issues.
Most of the Jane’s have children. Some their own, others are step-parents.
Some of the Jane’s don’t just have children but other relatives to care for too.
All of the Jane’s have jobs. Some of them work full time, others part time. Many of latter have often found however, that whilst their hours and pay have reduced, the work certainly hasn’t, and nor has the size or the needs of their teams.
Some of the Jane’s have flexible working – but often it is precarious, on the whim of an individual manager. Some of the arrangements are formal, others are of the ‘please can I work from home tomorrow’ variety. Without this little bit of flexibility, often begrudgingly given, the house of cards would fall.
Most of the Jane’s are, of course, doing a whole heap of the emotional and domestic labour of their family lives too. Carrying the mental load of remembering birthdays and school PE kits and food shopping and getting the ironing done.
Some of the Jane’s have senior roles, big teams, plenty of responsibility.
Some have partners who are genuinely sharing the domestic and family load, others are very much on their own with it all.
Many have hobbies and interests that have fallen by the wayside as they juggle and juggle.
They use coaching to talk about their work life balance. To talk about their wellbeing. They feel that they aren’t (delete as appropriate) exercising enough / being a good enough manager / developing their career at the pace they wanted to / finding any time for CPD / not getting to the school events / eating properly / spending enough time with their children, parents, siblings or friends / networking / reading books / being a good enough mum, partner, step-parent, daughter / giving their children healthy enough food. They believe they are too unfit / relying on childcare too much / not coping / forgetting stuff / not delivering on their objectives / failing to have it all.
Here’s the thing all the Jane’s have in common.
They think it is them.
They don’t realise it is structural, societal, organisational.
They don’t realise that their company or their manager could be more flexible or the work could be organised differently and that would make them more productive and their lives easier along the way. That they don’t have to take on all of the emotional labour even if they have been conditioned to believe that they must. They don’t realise that it’s the organisations that are at fault with its presenteeism and its obsession with 9-5, face to face. They don’t know that they don’t have to have it all, do it all, that it is okay to say that you are tired and need a break. They don’t know that you can just ignore the ironing and go to work in a crumpled shirt.
The strive for perfection is a heavy burden. The “shoulds”, the “musts”, the “ought tos” and the “got tos”.
The Jane’s don’t realise that we look at them in awe as they balance and juggle and strive. As they manage families and relationships and careers and teams and all the day to day rollercoaster of life.
So to the full time women and the part timers, the single moms and the married ones and the ones in between. To the biological moms and the step moms, the organic moms and the frozen fish fingers moms (because that is all they will bloody eat this week). To the carers for relatives and the team leaders. The senior managers and the newly promoted. To the women navigating the school drop off and after school club pick-ups and still remembering to do the Tesco big shop on your phone on the train. To the women studying into the evening.
You are awesome. All of you.
And remember, even Superwoman occasionally needs a day off.
Policy, wellbeing, engagement.