The Association of Fundraising Professionals says 75% of fundraisers are women.
A Harvard Business School study shows that however lofty her professional position, family issues are still seen as a woman’s problem.
(An article in Slate summarizes the information contained the HBS study).
Go skim the Slate article at the least. Then put those two sentences together. I’ll wait.
You see where I’m going, right?
We expect women to hold down the fort at home while raising enough money to feed the mission at work. So it’s no surprise the top jobs, and the top pay, still go to men. For most women, there are too many compromises to make that top job a reality.
I’m not claiming my male colleagues don’t feel stress. What we – men and women – do is inherently stressful. If we don’t succeed, someone might miss a needed meal or class or job.
But I am saying culturally, women are usually the ones held responsible for the well-being of their families. All of which makes it particularly tough for those of us in the nonprofit sector.
Our “real world” friends might rest easy on a Friday night, able to sleep without worrying about the whachamathingers their company produces during the week.
Work-life balance is a little harder when our work so directly affects our organization’s survival, and more importantly, our mission.
If you’re like me, what happens more often is work and life bleed into one another. The boundaries get hard to find. We leave at 4 but put in another 3 hours at night. We spend free time reading about our trade. We check our phones to see how the last email is doing. We run out of the office to take care of a family emergency. We schedule meetings with donors on Sunday afternoon. It’s all part of the job. And the job has tremendous emotional benefits that whachamathingers could never provide.
But how can we stay sane long enough to do good work?
I’m not even going to pretend I have the answer for you. I left my development director position to consult for nonprofit organizations. But I also left because being my own boss meant working on my own terms, and around the needs of my family. Believe me, I don’t claim to be anyone’s role model!
First, we need to be more aware of the pressure and ready to support one another. Knowing you’re not alone can help. Having a friend or colleague reinforce your confidence or praise your skills can make a tough week more manageable.
We need to stand up for one another in the larger sense, too. Why does our culture still expect women to handle most of the home and child care? How can we change that attitude? It’s not going to change without us. (Sharing those duties is likely to make for happier, more balanced men as well. Too many don’t even realize what they’ve missed!)
In the meantime, self-care matters. Here are some ideas I’m trying to take to heart. And regardless of your gender, maybe they’ll help you, as well.
Writing for Huffington Post, Kris Carr suggests:
Disappoint people. In short, guilt happens. Try to let it go.
Keep emails and meetings short. No explanation needed, right? We all spend way too much time talking instead of doing.
Hit delete. You don’t have to respond to every email. She suggests putting an away message on when you need to work, explaining that you may not respond. Then hit delete.
Let them judge. Spending time living up to other people’s standards just hurts you.
You don’t need to fix people. I suspect this one is tough for all of us in the nonprofit world. But it’s not our job to fix everyone – especially people who haven’t even asked to be fixed.
Trust. Other people are also capable. Trust them.
You can’t give it all. Perfection isn’t attainable. Sometimes good enough has to be good enough. (Wisdom is in knowing which is which, I think).
You can’t have it all. You can do a lot. You can achieve a lot. But don’t kid yourself – there are always choices to be made. Accept that.
You are worthy just sitting still. Take time to just be present. (I had a boss once who would bark at us “What have you done today to justify your existence?!” I think he was joking. I’m still not really sure. And, unfortunately, that message is still alive and well in my subconscious. Someday I’ll beat it.)
I hope you find the time to take care of yourself so you can take care of the world. Your hard work, your sacrifices, your late nights are not unnoticed.
You should know that.