At her recent graduation ceremony speech for Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, Dr. Myra Strober didn’t sugarcoat the challenges of achieving the ever elusive “work-life balance.” Instead, the Stanford professor delivered practical advice about “having it all” — starting with the idea that you shouldn’t get bogged down trying to have it all in the first place. Having both a fulfilling career and family life are possible, she told graduates, but it’s not going to be easy.
Strober is a labor economist and the founder of the Stanford Center for Research on Women. She knows about the difficulties of balancing a career with family, having written the book, Sharing the Work: What My Family and Career Taught Me about Breaking Through (and Holding the Door Open for Others).
At the June 18 ceremony, Quartz reports that she told graduates, “You can harmonize two careers with a successful family life, including children, if you want them. But it is a decidedly complicated goal,and our society doesn’t help.” She pointed out that the U.S. government does little to support working parents, with no paid maternity leave and inadequate resources for affordable childcare.
Work and family are “both greedy institutions,” Strober said. Finding time to meet the demands of both means not “wast[ing] time being frustrated by trying to have it all,” and instead learning to “prioritize what is important.”
“I can assure you from observing more than 40 years of Stanford graduates, that when both members of a couple consistently support each other, both can have successful careers as well as a loving relationship and thriving children,” Strober told the crowd. She offered practical ideas for how this can be accomplished, suggesting that people look into nanny shares, working for companies that offer childcare, and living near family.
Strober also urged the audience members to acknowledge their privilege and use their resources to make things better for others. “[As a Stanford graduate,] you are now among the most privileged people in the world,” she said. “You may not have started life as a privileged person, but you have become one.”
“As you go forward, I hope you will work hard to make it possible not only for you to harmonize work and family, but also for others, with less education and less clout to do the same,” she said. “I hope you will work both in your own workplace and in the political arena for subsidized high quality childcare, paid parental leave, and an end to discrimination against part-time employees. I hope you will be among those who work to create new models.”
You can see excerpts from Strober’s speech in the video above.