Mixing work and family

By Victoria Fryer 

The division of the company that I work for had its annual summer picnic last week, to which spouses and children were invited. But I noticed something when I got there: no one without children had brought their spouse.

I know that some people’s philosophy is not to so much balance work and life as to try to integrate the two as much as possible. And knowing a bit about your colleagues’ families can provide some common ground for small talk at the office. Also, it seems like people are often interested in meeting children. Are they really interested in meeting my husband?

Personally, I prefer to keep my work and personal life separate. In fact, I’m often thankful that I live 45 minutes away from my workplace and know that I’ve only got about a one percent chance of running into anyone I work with on my Sunday morning trips to the grocery store.

I wondered, though, if this difference has anything to do with having children or not having children. Do couples with children try to better integrate their work and personal lives so that they can spend more time doing each, or even out of necessity?

In this article asserting that work/life separation is “impossible,” Christian Jarrett writes, “The ideal of compartmentalizing our work and home lives sounds appealing in a self-help book or advice-based TV show, but reality is much messier than that. As anyone who has ever received a call from their child’s school at work knows, the barrier between our professional and domestic realms is more of a door than a wall.”

In further evidence of work/life integration among parents, there have been several times when colleagues of mine have brought their children to work. Just two weeks ago, I was in a large meeting—and one of the attendees was an eight-year-old. She certainly wasn’t disruptive or anything like that, but I just thought it was interesting that some parents would bring their children to work.

On the side of keeping work and life separate, this article encourages more mindful interactions at both home and work by keeping the two as separate as possible. At the same time, the article talks more about not bringing work home, as opposed to having an opinion on bringing the home to work.

I’m not one to make a judgment on which is better, particularly since I don’t know what it’s like to have children. But I do think it’s interesting to observe how parents integrate work and life compared to the way childfree and childless couples do.

What about you? Do you integrate the two or try to keep them separate? And do you think it has anything to do with the fact that you don’t have children?

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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