Your Work Will Be Your Most 'Faithful Mistress': Thoughts on Work-Life Balance Occasioned by the Loss of Professor Jane Larson
Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society , 2013, Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 2013
“Work-Life” balance has become part of contemporary public discourse. Whether in boardrooms, job interviews, or classrooms, we speak of this balance as a goal that is within our reach and worthy of our pursuit, collectively and individually. To date, the bulk of the discourse on work-life balance presupposes that a balance is obtainable and desirable. This essay challenges that notion. At the heart of my challenge is an alternate perspective on women’s relationship to work, inspired by a seemingly off-hand, yet rich comment made by my dear friend, the late Professor Jane Larson: "Your work will be your most faithful mistress." The essay begins by describing the shortcomings of the contemporary frameworks invoked when describing women’s struggles with work, family and accomplishment (“having it all” and “work-life balance”). Following this critique, I borrow from the work of Jerome Bruner and Arthur Frank, considering narratives that more accurately reflect the turbulence of motherhood and illustrating the manner in which a relationship to work can serve as a ballast, a solace, a faithful mistress, for those endeavoring to achieve meaningful connections in their personal and their professional lives.
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