How to Find the Balance between Work and Family? An Important Discussion We Need to Acknowledge

Added to Medium, February 1, 2018

Museum professionals who either decide to start or have families of their own or have other dependents need to figure out how they can balance work and life outside of the museum. This balance is what I need to continue to consider as I plan to be married next year, and continue to spend time with family. Finding the right balance is not going to be easy since life is unpredictable.

I knew going in that balancing work and life is a challenge, and I should try to be as flexible as possible. My experience in the museum field has presented a number of instances when I need to figure out how to balance work and family. For instance, it is a challenge to visit my family when they live in other states.

I have an older sister who lives with her husband and two boys in Connecticut, and a younger sister who lives with her husband in Rhode Island. The rest of my family live around the New England area. As a museum professional who works in a small museum, I wear many hats when I assist in running programs and finances. It is hard sometimes when I cannot always go up to visit family as long as I want to. During the holidays, we planned a brunch so all of us are able to spend time together and we are able to spend time with extended family within the same day; this worked well with me especially because my fiancé and I went to brunch at my sister’s then we went back to spend time with his family.

I am grateful for the time I am able to spend with family, and being able to balance museum work and family is important to me. I always look for resources on how to balance museum work and family life since it is never too early to figure out how to plan for the future.

In the past, I came across information about balancing work and family life in the museum field. I kept the information in mind while I was attending graduate school, and beginning my career in the museum education field.

Recently I have been reintroduced to a blog post written on American Association of State and Local History’s website written back in 2016 by Melissa Prycer, the President/Executive Director of the Dallas Heritage Village. The AASLH blog post, “Baby Boom: Motherhood & Museums”, shared two stories about Prycer’s friends and colleagues experiences dealing with balancing work and family, as well as workplace leave policies.

It caught my attention again because now that I am planning more on my future. By reading this blog and other resources, we will be prepared for what we need to know what is going on in the topic of workplace leave policies and motherhood.

I began thinking more about the balance of work and life when I participated in the MuseumEdChat discussion last week on this topic. The hosts of this chat posed questions about this topic and participants answered their questions.

One of the questions that was posed and discussed about was: When you hear the phrase “family friendly workplace,” what does mean to you? When I hear “family friendly workplace”, I think that this is an organization that understands that family takes priority especially when unpredictable circumstances happen such as when one’s child is sick and needs to be brought to the doctor.

Museums and museum professionals also need to acknowledge that there are different types of families that need to be cared for, and when we acknowledge this in our programming our family friendly workplace policies should reflect this fact as well.

A website called Incluseum had written a blog post that discussed acknowledging different types of families called “Including the 21st Century Family”. The 21st century family is a term created by the writer to acknowledge the fact that families are unique, and by using the term family it suggests that we see families as “a nuclear family with two heterosexual legally married parents of the same race and their biological children, residing in the same household.”

The blog post included a list of family-inclusive language words that helps museums be more inclusive to all visitors. For instance, instead of calling adults accompanying children “parents” or “mom and dad”, since it suggests that all children have moms and dads which is not the case, museum professionals should use “grownup”, “adult”, or “caregiver”.

If we pay this close attention to how we treat our family visitors, we should extend the same amount of attention to our own museum professionals’ families.

Since I do not have children of my own yet, it is important that I should learn what other museum professional parents deal with and desire from family friendly workplace policies to prepare for what I may consider in the future. I read other participants tweets responding to questions the hosts posted.

Another question that was posed was: If you could design your dream set of benefits that would give you true “work life fit” what would it look like?

One of the participants pointed out that it is important to make sure museum professionals who dedicate a big chunk of their lives to fulfill the museum’s mission get benefits that include paid family leave, health insurance, and opportunities for professional growth.

During the discussion, Sage, one of the hosts of last week’s MuseumEdChat, shared information from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on Family and Medical Leave. According to their website, this organization produces reports, fact sheets, and memoranda about the impacts of proposed paid leave laws to inform policymakers, business leaders, and advocates across the country. The information the Institute provides identifies costs and benefits of workplace leave policies to help people understand that these policies do not harm businesses and the economy.

When we take a good look at what our museums have to offer and what museums should do to help us balance work and family, we will be able to successfully accomplish our museums’ goals while being able to make memories with our families and have families of our own if we choose to.

Does your museum or organization provide leave policies and/or services for your families? How do you balance time between work and family?

Resources:
https://iwpr.org/issue/work-family/family-and-medical-leave/
http://blogs.aaslh.org/baby-boom-motherhood-and-museums/
https://incluseum.com/2014/07/07/including-the-21st-century-family/

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