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Author Q&A

What is the Libra Solution?

The Libra Solution is a strategic, long-term approach to work and life management. Two characteristics are salient in Libra families: one is a far more egalitarian approach to sharing all that is required to raise a family including caring for the children and making a living. The second is an intentional effort to slow down the velocity of life, for adults and children alike. The Libra Solution provides an alternative to the overly busy, highly stressful approach which has come to define life for many dual-career families raising children in the 21st century.

What inspired you to write this book?

Research underscores that overwhelmingly people report a desire for equality in their marriages and a balance between their professional work and their lives outside of work. Yet when they become parents, many find themselves quickly reverting to far more gendered roles than they ever imagined and feeling the acute stress of combining the enormous expectations of professional jobs with the intensive model of modern parenting. As an organizational consultant for nearly two decades, I have heard firsthand people’s struggles to integrate their professional and personal lives and seen the costs for individuals, families and organizations.

This book provides a roadmap for women and men to come far closer to this stated ideal of equality in marriage and greater balance in their lives. The book provides a vision – as well as practical guidance – for bringing down the intensity and building in more joy and greater sustainability into our lives at work and at home.

My goal with this book is not to suggest that everyone should follow this highly shared, more moderate approach but rather to let people know that it is very possible, and highly pragmatic. The book shares many real-life stories of women and men who are employing the Libra Solution in their lives.

What do you think will surprise women about your book?

That the road to greater sustainability and better balance is likely not about being more efficient but about being more strategic. I think women will be surprised to see that despite their desire for greater equality in marriage, they may be playing, unknowingly, a key role in reinforcing a highly gendered status quo. Women may also be surprised to find that attention to their relationship with their spouse (or partner) is as, or even more, valuable to children than the acute focus on meeting all their needs. Finally, women may be very surprised to find that taking care of themselves is an important part of being a good mother.

What do you think will surprise men about your book?

Men may be surprised that they have nothing to fear here. Much of the discussion about work and life management feels like male bashing, focused simply and unilaterally on men not doing enough at home. This book respects and understands (based on extensive research) the unique struggles that men face at this moment in history as they seek to combine their professional and personal lives. The Libra Solution is not about men doing more but about helping couples to reallocate their resources of time, energy and money to better meet the needs of everyone in the family – men and women, children and adults.

Men may also be surprised to find that based on academic research, men in more egalitarian marriages – where both partners share more equally in the family and home management and in the breadwinning – are physically and mentally healthier and report higher marital satisfaction. And yes, they have more sex.

What are the benefits of the Libra work and life model?

There are many benefits to this approach. An entire chapter of the book delves into the benefits: for individuals, for marriages, and for children. Let me share a few here. A major one is the flexibility that the Libra work and life model provides. In Libra families both parents are able to deal with managing the critical – and not so critical – issues that arise in raising children. If a child is sick, needs special support at school, or requires transportation to after-school activities, both parents are willing and able to do what needs to be done. Similarly, they are able to support one another professionally because of the financial fluency that results from two incomes. Each is far more able to leave a job that does not suit them, to return to school or start a business if that is their goal. For couples, walking in each other’s shoes helps to deepen and strengthen the marital relationship.

Children are greatly benefitted by the enormous stability that is created by this partnership approach to career and family management. They see parents who care about and support one another and they see a living model of adults actively working to balance their own needs with the needs of others.

Why is the Libra Solution good for organizations/ employers?

You might wonder why organizations would be concerned with the work and life balance of employees. The simple answer is, based on much research employee well being and successful business outcomes are linked. A meta-analysis of 225 academic studies highlights connections between employee well being, enhanced productivity, and greater profitability. Furthermore, work-life fit is a critical factor influencing employee well being. It also makes intuitive sense. Enabling employees to work effectively, including being able to combine work with other important life priorities, can’t help but unleash the best of what they have to offer. Conversely, persistently feeling in conflict does just the opposite: eroding enthusiasm, diminishing focus, and sapping positive energy through time. The smartest organizations know that employee well being is good for everyone – employees and employers alike.

The two most common reasons clients retain my services as an organizational consultant are to support their efforts to better develop and retain diverse talent and to facilitate employees working most effectively. My work helps organizations to understand how their employees experience their work environments, and the particular issues that diverse employees face. For instance, I could illuminate the distinct challenges that professional women encounter, both work-life challenges related to women acting as the primary family manager in many households and those having nothing to do with work and life issues, such as the narrow range of acceptable styles for women leaders. Armed with this knowledge, organizations can adapt their work environments in ways that enable women (and typically men as well) to thrive. Examples of these changes might include the creation of a more flexible work culture or greater attention to proactive career development.

What is the biggest barrier to employing the Libra Solution?

There are certainly obstacles to navigate in employing the Libra Solution but the biggest barrier, by far, is the belief that it can’t be done. In the book I suggest that we suffer from a “collective failure of the imagination” in envisioning how dual-career couples raising children in the 21st century could look differently. We’ve resigned ourselves to thinking this is just the way it is and there is nothing (or little) we can do about it. The Libra Solution helps couples explore the many ways in which they can create a different reality in their lives if their goal is greater equality in marriage and a better work and life balance for all. When couples are on the same page about solving the work and life puzzle, the sky is the limit.

Why do you think the Libra work and life approach is not more common?

My belief is that while the Libra approach is not common, it is also not as rare as we tend to think. We are bombarded with messaging about our inability to create a saner and more satisfying approach to the work and life juggle and for couples to both be deeply engaged in raising their children. Understandably, this reinforces our belief that it is impractical, even impossible, to walk a different road. This book shares many real-life stories of women and men doing things differently.

I also talk in the book about the confluence of powerful forces that come together and lead us to excessive busyness and more gendered marriages after having children. Without the perspective that allows an individual to recognize the approaching wave, it is far too easy to get swept up in the flow. The book helps women and men recognize and manage these forces so that they can write their own work and life scripts.

Is the Libra Solution only for couples who have young children?

While the Libra Solution is a powerful way for couples to begin their shared journey of raising children – and I am a big proponent of supporting fathers’ early and deep involvement in caring for their children – the reality is there are many roads to the Libra approach.

Some couples start from the outset while others don’t move to this shared approach until their children are pre-schoolers or school-age. For some it is purposeful and planned while for others it evolves through time. Couples move to the Libra model from traditional families, reverse traditional families (with the father as the at home parent while the mother is the breadwinner) and from the most common dual-career model whereby both parents work outside the home but the mother remains the primary home and family manager. The catalysts for moving to a Libra arrangement range from a parent dying or the birth of a special needs child to an unplanned job loss, a planned career change, or the desire to dial down the frenetic pace of life.

The starting points are variable, and many, yet all end up at approximately the same place – where sharing and moderation come to define how they do things on a day-to-day basis.

How is the Libra Solution possible for someone who is a _____ (you fill in the profession/role)?

One of the most common assumptions is that this more moderate approach to work and life management is not for someone who is in a particular profession or job. Yet in my research, I have seen exceptions to every rule. There are doctors, lawyers and business managers who employ the Libra Solution. There are people who work for themselves and those who work for others who do this. And despite the acute fear that putting boundaries up at work exacts a high professional cost, the Libra Solution is not shorthand for forgoing professional development and advancement. A core characteristic of Libra women and men is a drive for both professional accomplishment and active family involvement in their lives.

Because Libra professionals have more time and space in their lives for a range of priorities, they typically feel highly energized and excited about their professional work which fits into, rather than takes over, their lives. For Libra professionals, career decisions are made within the context of a broader mosaic; at some junctures they are throttling back while at others they are speeding ahead. The unifying factor for Libra men and women is a compass set to equality and balance over the long term and a willingness to experiment and make adjustments as necessary.

What are some important things to know if your goal is to employ the Libra Solution in your life?

The book is filled with the wisdom of women and men who work every day to make the Libra Solution a reality. Some of the strategies that set them up for success include understanding what is most important to them and to their spouse or partner, having ongoing discussions about what is – and is not – working with their current work and life approach, assuming a long-term perspective, living within their means, prioritizing the couple relationship, and proactively managing careers.