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Gen-X Envy
Mom with a View

Gen-X Envy

They're mastering the work-life balance. Now comes the hard part.


I'm really jealous of the Gen-Xers. For all the baby boomers' talk of "revolution," the generations to follow have been much more successful at creating meaningful lives. According to recent surveys (cited in the Wall Street Journal 11/29/05), Gen-Xers are much more focused on work-life balance, opportunities for growth and good work relationships than the generations before them. They are not living to work.

This focus has even spawned new magazines, like Worthwhile, that highlight meaningful job opportunities, career goals and workplace behavior.

"More than older workers, Gen-X employees view work as secondary to their lives outside the office..." This is a very important philosophy and a life determining one. It's also a very Jewish idea. Work is a means to an end -- "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" -- and not the end itself. We want to fulfill our responsibilities to our employers, employees and peers by doing our job ethically and thoughtfully, and then we want to leave it at the office.

An appropriate work-life balance can change our society. It can lead to healthier marriages and happier children.

But all this restructuring of our days and refocus of our energies is only worthwhile if our free time is used productively -- helping our spouses, our children, our community, and yes, ourselves.

To truly succeed, we need not just a definition and understanding of work, but one of life as well.

The WSJ article mentions the freedom to pursue our hobbies. While hobbies may be personally nourishing and rejuvenating, they should also be limited. If our extra time is solely spent on bungee-jumping, sky-diving and stamp collecting with some extra spa experiences thrown in, I think we have squandered an opportunity. But if the time is used on relationships, personal growth, Jewish enrichment, then what a boon indeed.

While autonomy and flexibility are certainly perks, they also need to be used in conjunction with a meaningful end. How we use our freedom is a serious question for individuals, couples, communities and even nations.

I applaud the search for a work-life balance, even though it's not my generation that has reached this crucial realization. But to truly succeed, we need not just a definition and understanding of work, but one of life as well. Not just career goals but life goals. Once these are solidified, then having the clarity not to sell your soul to your company can save your life.

Across the country, across the generations, spouses and children have been screaming for a little balance. They may finally be getting their wish.

January 7, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) STICKY, August 29, 2006 12:00 AM


(4) nicki, January 11, 2006 12:00 AM

no choice

i am about to take a job where i will be away from my son from 8-6. im dreading it. i now work at a flexible job, get paid on commision, live very modestly and cannot make ends meet. any encouragement from anyone out there?

(3) Chana, January 10, 2006 12:00 AM

People might looking for balance, but are they finding it?

I am not sure where WSJ is taking this information from either. I was recently looking for a job that would allow me to spend more time with my family. While many employers are stressing the importance of work/life balance, they are not actually providing it. Putting it in the company manual makes them look good, but "the work still has to get done, isn't this what we are here for?" motto prevails as the actual unwritten policy. And I am not talking about an occasional project that requires extra effort and time; many employers expect and require a lot of overtime on a regular basis. One interviewer actually told me,"it's not so bad, you would have to stay till 9 p.m. ONLY two weeks out of a month." That's half the time! Then she added that of course during the close of the year for about a month or so it would get a little worse. And that attitude was prevailant pretty much everywhere. So yes, employers know that people are looking for more balance between life and work, but are they providing it? In my experience and field (accounting)- rarely.

(2) anonymous, January 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Emuna, I am sorry, I beg to differ.......

It's difficult to know how to word this entry-yet here goes. When I look at many mothers who must work i often feel badly. They must leave their children with day care/babysitters to go to a job that they may or may not like only to come home exhausted. Once they are at home they attend to the needs ofthe children whom they have not seen all day long-along with the competing demands of chores that await-oh, and yes, dinner, too is still uncooked.
I am fortunate to be able to stay at home(not due to financial abundance) yet due to decision. I do work for little pay out of our home and i am exhausted by the end of the day and have children as well-thankfully.
Man! I cannot imagine working outside of the home, though. I do not see how there is the balance that is addressed here in this article.
I am the babysitter for professional people whom work outside the home. They are Torah observant people whom must work(as most of us must) yet i see the exhausted fatigued mother whom still has a night full of many chores and homework help for the children etc...ahead of her.
So I have to be honest here and ask which balance are you speaking about, because I must be missing it. I really don't feel that I am being pessimistic, either. I feel that I am speaking the truth , here. These mothers do take weekend vacations when they can, too . They grab at the chance to be with their families and they are Torah/Shabbat observant and look forward to Shabbat as a time to be with their families as well....yet , balance? I am not seeing this. Dealing? coping as best as they can? yes, this i see.
balance? nah........I also am not seeing/understanding how you said that this generation is balancing family better than the previous one. Mothers and fathers drop their kids off to me with handless cell phone attachments thatlook like they are permanently velcroed sp? to the sides of their heads! work/life balance? I am sorry Emuna, yet I am not seeing this one.
What am I not seeing? Please someone let me know..maybe I am way off the mark?

(1) Anonymous, January 8, 2006 12:00 AM

excel lent article

I find divisions in work and family very difficult and friends and activities,,, just elabour ate...

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