A Work/Life Balance? Does it Exist?

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” was the most downloaded article in the history of The Atlantic magazine. It was published the same year Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandburg released her book “Lean-In,” which encourages young women to stay in the working world once they become mothers.

Slaughter has followed up her article with the groundbreaking book “Unfinished Business,” which offers an in-depth look at the status of equality in the workforce and an action plan for change.

In her debut novel “A Window Opens,” Elisabeth Egan illustrates these issues through the character of Alice Pearce, a happily married mother of three whose life is transformed when her husband loses his job and she is forced to find full-time work. Alice’s struggle is an inspiring, painful, funny and familiar account of a contemporary woman trying to maintain a work/family balance.

These books spoke to me and comforted me really during a difficult time in my life. Anne-Marie Slaughter calls it a “Tipping Point” and writes, “A key thing to anticipate is the possibility of a tipping point, a situation in which what was once a manageable and enjoyable work – family balance can no longer be sustained – regardless of ambition, confidence, or even an equal partner.” As a married woman with three healthy boys, I have all those things, and yet I reached a point where I could no longer sustain the life I was leading. My tipping point was being diagnosed with situational depression and anxiety.

Writing has always been healing for me and in an attempt to understand what happened and why I reached that tipping point and how to move forward, I’ve been writing and reading. This is an excerpt of an essay I am working on titled “I Never Wanted to be a Supermom.”

I am a 44-year-old woman with three boys; two dogs who don’t get along, and a husband who works long hours. Until recently, every day was a series of tasks to complete. This was my typical schedule: (Nod your heads if it sounds familiar.)

Make breakfast, get dressed (battle with my six-year-old about whether his shoes are tied the way he likes them!) meet the school bus, race out the door with my lunch and coffee to drive downtown so I can work 8 hours in front of a computer at a non-profit with a rapidly shrinking budget, sit in endless meetings, (check the texts from my babysitter to make sure the kids made it safely home, and that they are doing their homework), race out of the office at 5:00pm to sit in the car and seethe over the traffic, wondering what to make for dinner (if we have food in the house all is fine, but most nights I have to race to the grocery store before the babysitter leaves for the day), feed the boys, hope my husband makes it home in time to drop one or two kids off at sports, walk the dogs, pick up the kids from sports, demand that they shower, get everyone to bed (try to stay awake while reading to my six year old)…and then collapse on the couch next to my husband.

But this is what everyone does. All the moms I know keep calendars to monitor their family’s schedule. My entire office was made up of working mothers and if they could do it, so could I. Right? Wrong.

I’d been struggling with stomachaches for years, but figured I must be allergic to dairy, or gluten, or raw vegetables. So I began eliminating all sorts of food from my diet in an attempt to relieve myself from the stomach pains, but nothing worked. Everything I put in my mouth seemed to cause my stomach to hurt. In January we took a family vacation and I said to hell with it and ate whatever I wanted. I stood by the blue green water with my family and ate fried fish, conch salad, and drank Bahamian beer. I slept late and watched my boys snorkel, and felt great. I felt great not just because I was in a tropical paradise, but because I was free from pain. I was not consumed with the fire in my belly. At the end of the week we packed our bags, climbed onto the plane, and as we got close to home I began thinking about whether we had any food in the fridge for dinner, and how many emails I would have to answer at work the next day, and whether I’d scheduled the babysitter for our return, and my stomach started to hurt. Walking out of the airport I turned to my husband.

“It’s stress,” I announced. “My stomach hurts because I’m stressed out. How could I have missed it all this time?” He nodded his head. I felt stupid for taking so long to figure it out, but knowing didn’t make the pain go away. I couldn’t stay on vacation forever so I gave myself a pep talk and returned to the daily race. What choice did I have?

Related Reading on this topic:

Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family (New York Times)

The Case for Taking Parental Leave When your Kids are Teenagers (New York Magazine)

Overwhelmed, Work, Love, and Play When No one has the Time, by Brigid Schulte

My Ever-Expanding Omnipod Bill

Just got my latest bill from Omnipod and it’s up to $1500. Yikes. They have me set up on a payment plan of $50 a month so if I don’t order any more pods, it’ll take me more than 2 years to pay it off. Of course I will be ordering more pods, in fact I’ve only got one box of pods left so that means in about a month I’ll need to order more.

I shouldn’t be writing about money right before I go to bed.

How is this fair? I’ve written about the cost of living with diabetes plenty of times before, but the bills never fail to surprise and overwhelm me. Nothing changes. Sometimes I’ll get some extra money, after taxes or on my birthday, and I can pay $100 instead of my measly $50, and I’ll feel like I’m making a stab at the mountain of medical supply debt, but then it’s time to order supplies again and I’m right back where I started. 

My endocrinologist used to call MDI (multiple daily injections) the “poor man’s pump,” and I would laugh because I was using MDI and doing just fine. But I’ve been using a pump for 3 years now and I don’t want to go back. The pump makes my life easier and helps me manage my blood sugars. So why does it have to cost so much?

I’m not alone…read a few comments from others who are struggling like me: (Diabetes Health article)

“My son needs a pump but my insurance company will not cover it. Where can I find help to get a pump? I can’t spend 5 to 6 thousand dollars out of pocket for a pump.”

“My husband is a pump candidate and wanted to use the Omnipod, but Medicare said it would not cover it. When I read the Medicare regulation there was nothing said about a specific brand only that it would cover pumps. I’ve been on hold to Medicare several times but haven’t gotten through to get an answer. Any help here?”

“Who can use an insulin pump, which is unaffordable though it is a boon to diabetes? We should think of something which dosen’t eat our pockets. Please bring something in the market which is affordable. I am a diabetic, take injections, and I want to get rid of these tensions.”

How can any of us put a price tag on the quality of our life? We shouldn’t have to.

“Recession Weighs Heavily on People with Diabetes”

(From Diabetes Health) The economic recession has hammered people with diabetes, according to a new survey. Many say that their health has been harmed by the crisis, and more expect their health to suffer in the future. What’s more, most don’t expect the government‘s health reform bill to improve their situation.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Knowledge Networks conducted the study, which asked more than 1,500 people about their health. People with diabetes weren’t the only group included; those with heart disease and cancer were also surveyed.

The results paint a bleak picture of life today for people with diabetes:

— Nearly two in five (39 percent) say that tough times have made their health worse.

— Nearly one in two (48 percent) say that they expect problems in the future.

— About a third (34 percent) say that costs related to their disease have drained their savings accounts.

For some, the financial picture is even grimmer. More than a quarter (26 percent) have taken on credit card debt to pay for treatment. Nine percent have had to declare bankruptcy because of medical costs.

I have to say all this is depressing research is spot on. I for one have stopped using the pumo (omnipod) because of the cost and have gone back to MDI. I also have been forced to cut down on the number of times I test each day because our insurance recently decided to decrease the amount of boxes they will cover. It’s flat out depressing and frustrating and I wish I could see a silver lining on the horizon but I just don’t. This disease is very expensive, even more so if you want to try and maintain good management.



Behavioral Diabetes Institute

After 25 years of living with type 1 diabetes and often feeling very alone, I finally got the opportunity to be in a room full of women with the disease. Thanks to BDI’s annual Celebration of Strength luncheon, I got to sit at a table next to Brandy Barnes of Diabetes Sisters and 6 other great women and talk about the realities of pregnancy and motherhood with diabetes. There were women who had lived with diabetes from 1.5 years to 50 years, there were women who wanted to focus on issues from exercise to complications….it could have been a room full of women writers or golfers or bankers, other than the one or two women wearing pumps in visible places, and the sprinkling of beeps going off around the room from pumps at lunchtime, we could have been anyone.

It’s going to take me a few more days at least to process the whole thing but it was really a weekend like no other. Mom flew out with me to help with Reid and while we got to stay in the beautiful Torrey Pines Lodge, it was a huge effort going from coast to coast with a 13 month old. And as exhausted as I am right now, it was completely worthwhile. Dr. Susan Guzman and Dr. Liana Abascal met me the following day to be interviewed for my book on the topics of depression and eating disorders and gave me some great information.

Most importantly, I think what will stick with me, was seeing and listening to and talking with the women who are the audience for my book….knowing that as different as we all are, we share this disease.

Plans are in the works for next year’s conference (October 9th I think) that will be a sleepover event with Diabetes Sisters. Count me in!