Balance Is a Fallacy: Striving for and Supporting a Life with Integrity
by Renée A. Cramer, Drake University, Nikol G. Alexander-Floyd, Rutgers University and Taneisha Means, Vassar College
The expectation for managing complex professional and personal lives is to find work–life balance, but our auto-ethnographic and intersectional analysis of our experiences as successful professional women—coupled with research on women in politics, in the workforce, and in the academy—shows us that balance is an inappropriate and even dangerous metaphor. The myth of balance—and the expectation that we strive for it—reinforces unreasonable standards that are rooted in the neoliberal concept of the ideal worker, which is an ideal we cannot, and will not, embody. We reject the metaphor of balance because it places responsibility on workers rather than on institutions; it does not address structural injustice and root causes of harm. We suggest that workers and institutions strive instead for integrity, to act in consonance with our values. This means engaging in self-care—not neoliberal self-discipline. Our lived experiences also bring us to make various institutional recommendations that we believe place some of the onus on institutions for creating and fostering spaces that respect and value the individuals working within them and not only their labor.