Women and work : Inventing a new life balance


Mouvement Chrétien des Cadres et dirigeants
18 rue de Varenne – 75007 PARIS

Women and work : Inventing a new life balance

The Christian Movement of Executives and Leaders (MCC) was born in 1965 at the time when women accessed to executives positions through the development of higher education. They arrived in the MCC teams, which were originally male, first as wives then increasingly as managers themselves. MCC has accompanied this women's movement of accessing to advanced professional responsibilities with its progresses and its difficulties, its search for new life balances for the woman, the couple, the family.

Couple and work
Testimony by Claire Jacquet, MCC’s member

The balance between professional and personal life is not limited to the couple : it exceeds it widely because within the family the place of children is decisive in terms of attention. [...] We spend a lot of time to seek a balance, because the constitution of our couple and the close and desired coming of our four children were in no time source of many questions, sometimes disturbing. [...]

Couple : live together or side by side

Today, the woman can, like the man, live a life outside the home. [...] With the arrival of children, everything can change or be maintained as it is. Either self-centering remains first, and it quickly becomes difficult, or the couple and family project takes its true measure.

What are we looking into working life ?

First of all it is necessary to overhaul the meaning of our professional investment.

- In view of the individual : to ensure its independence, its revenues and its future ; to thrive by building on its studies ; to acquire an identity, a social status, etc. All these motives not disappear with the coming into life together. They are instead exacerbated if the backdrop is the one of a couple's separation deemed always possible.

- In view of the couple: to ensure revenue streams - especially as the unemployment one of the two is always possible; to ensure the link of each with the world of work - and therefore a balance in the couple because ... work is being recognized, etc.

[...] When I do not work (the employee sense) because family life imposes it, it is obvious that the only wage that enters is as much mine as Vincent’s. We are bound by a project that exceeds the "who does what" at a given time. Personally, I consider acquired the male / female equality in rights, and that gives me the freedom to make choices that do not refer to traditional models.... But as soon as possible, we must go beyond the issue of equality still imperfect to venture into new directions. The important thing is perhaps not to lock the other in a role.

What conduct negotiations ?

At each change, therefore, the question, in negotiating with my partner, is whether we camp on our individual interests, or if we incorporate elements specific to our marriage, our children, our family life and our long term life project. [...]

The company regarding the couple

The company does not know the couple, but a person who works with a contract. It is for everyone to know what he actually puts in the contract beyond the job description. Why do we come home late from work : real work overload or low willingness to go home ?

Family life is not satisfying at all times: for women who know the hectic professional life where one has the impression of being very smart, and also know the changes diapers, children's screams and baths at 6pm, there is no comparison. I understand why some men do not venture into this adventure ; I also know that for some women, it is better to entrust all this to a nurse or the housekeeper - when one is executives, opportunities are increasing - to put also itself feet under the table when coming home from work. [...] Family life is a role of patience, of requirement, that does not result immediately and is uncertain. The requirement of that family life has to be shared in the couple over time. While in contrast the company's time is too often reduced to the short term.

The sanctification of professional work is by the way a dangerous weapon: when one exits in the eyes of the other only for his professional performance, there is no room for failure. That's why, perhaps, we saw the unemployed not to tell their wives of their professional difficulties, and pretend to go to work. [...]

Beyond the issue of working life is the question of roles: we all remember, especially women, the well- established roles of our parents' generation. It is reproduced, in most cases, or it is discarded. Could we combine and invent a new way ?

Work for woman, Working woman

Reflection by France Quéré

The explosion of women's work has been a reversal of taboos, a real revolution. The woman will qualify for all trades. ... The nurse will become doctor, the teacher professor, even in higher education ... She will apply for jobs that have nothing to do with the feminine genius itself : judges, engineers, sales managers, pilots... Today, this conquest is nearing completion. While women are less paid, more unemployed, more specialized workers than their companion. In a hundred years, we had never seen a fragment population - and which one… 50% ! - pass a social reversal of this nature. [...]

Many women are anxious - especially when working by choice and not by necessity ; they feel the eternal guilt from the one who being here cannot be there, and vice versa ; but most of them have great joy to work, and are happy to live. As for men, it seems that they provide to their wife home help rather than assuming a true sharing. We are not there. But the introduction of fathers in family life - former hunting preserve of women - is perceived by them as happiness increase, especially through the care of toddlers. [...]

Eve basically has a crazy luck. She was created second. When she opened her eyes she saw a man in front of her, so a reason to live. [...] And perhaps we can interpret this story of Genesis in the sense of a partial answer to the riddle of the sexes. He is haunted by the drama of loneliness. And she, in some way, has the answer; since she does not know that solitude, always having her vis-à-vis in front of her.

The men’s side

For 7 years now, I'm working home on Wednesday morning and I’m here in the afternoon with our three preteen children. The transition to part-time did not go without saying. It has been necessary to exceed a double psychological wall: mine and the one of my professional colleagues (I'm computer analyst).

It hardly seemed possible to announce my manager perspective to work less to take more care of my family. This choice might be likened to a form of professional demotivation. However, several reasons have led me to review the organization of my time: the increasing professional of my wife became responsible for internal control at Generali, the evolution of the wage gap between us, the lengthening of my travel time. There was the question of the "profitability" of the economic part time relative to another, and it was also obvious to me that I needed to find a new professional breath. Today I do not regret that choice.

Teleworking allows me more concentration amidst a week in open spaces, and a real economy of transport time. Part-time work allows me to take over the medical appointments of children, to go back and forth for their extracurricular activities. It gives me joy to find them at lunch, more peaceful time than the diners of the week. It makes me more aware of what is expected and support for the family. I'm also more open to give some time to the others: at the youth section of the triathlon club, of which I am monitoring the swimming training, or at “Secours Catholique” (Caritas) for which I organize meals.

François Rousselet, MCC’s member, 2014

Woman Time, another report to life

Reflection by Anne-Marie de Besombes 1

How to talk about it ? Without tensing anyone. Without exciting. Without hurting. Neither injuring, nor clenching yourself. Out of the "politically correct". Words are tricky to choose. The reality to evoke is even more. And yet, how not to talk about what is "time" for women ? Part of their body in adolescence, then in the fullness of life and fertility, there is also a feminine way to see the time passing, to live time, to anticipate it, to welcome it, to give it. [...]

In the center, there is time to give birth or not to give birth that is required at one time or another. Hope, it can be worry for many. The question arises in any woman's life, that she may bear or not. The course of her life seems to be like that the time is not in her hands. Hurry, refuse, wait, despair, hope... Do not allow the present to escape.

The potential emergence of life: an upheaval

This possible emergence of life within her own life upsets her relationship to time. Imposing a rhythm now, stages, promises. Escaping the perfect organization, introducing the multitude of possible at the heart of a sometimes controlled course. Professional or personal. Something more instinctive starts to work. Clocks no longer run at the same pace or all together. [...] "When they return from maternity, I find some incredibly more able, despite months of absence", says an HR Director friend.

Women, generally better educated than men, (according to the current statistics) take, for many, the time of fertility after the time of the entry into professional life and, according to each, the time of a relatively long and azimuth path of construction.

[...] Does not have life a special flavor in everything that is not counted, for men and women ? While counting is required. There is gentleness. "My best memories" we hear. Forgetting the stress, the fatigue, the choices made and sometimes the dramas.

This is time sometimes for professional anxiety, although motherhood is protected by the labor code. Who has not felt leaving "for good cause" that on her return things could have changed. For her. And not necessarily positively. Opportunity for a forced letting go. Daring to trust, to trust oneself. The child project outweighing anything else. Sign of freedom. For greater than oneself too.

All life is in this work of creation [...]

The solos’side (Singles)

Testimony of Catherine, MCC’s member

Naturally, the professional sphere occupies a large part of my daily life. However, I have the feeling to live the same difficulties as women, the same contradictions, the same questions about the need to flourish in my work, than other friends married or in a relationship. Simply, the choice to more invest my time when a mission passionates me seems easier, since it is purely individual.

[...] My agenda remains divided between a controlled professional commitment, a charitable commitment close to my heart and availability to a network of faithful friends. I recognize flee loneliness that I could not make fruitful. I also made the choice to live in roommate and appreciate receiving regularly, organizing events, trips, etc.

This quite dense life helps me to decentralize me, not to live for myself and to appreciate the lonely times, reading time or spiritual renewal through weekly worship or short retreats.

© Copyright 2011-2015  Pontifical Council for the Laity | Site Map | Links | Contact us


On 1 September 2016 the

Pontifical Council for the Laity
ceased its activities.
Its responsibilities and duties
have been taken over by the
Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.