Comments from the Alumnae Survey

on January 28 | in Web Only | by

We’ve captured several responses and comments regarding the survey questions.


Question: When you were a student at Hollins, did you think about what your work/life balance would be after graduation?

“I thought about it slightly more than never! But I always just assumed I would have kids and have a full-time career.” Class of 1998

“I didn’t use that term, but I distinctly remember, while at Hollins, that I couldn’t spend all my time studying and neglect my friendships if I still wanted them to be my friends after graduation.” Class of 2009

“I thought my work life would consume about 40-50 percent of my time and my personal life the rest. I thought it would be easy to keep them separate, but it is not. Work life is all consuming and I find little time/energy for my personal life.” Class of 2006

“I thought about it often in imagining my future work life. My mother was a ‘stay-at-home’ mom, but she also did a large amount of volunteer work in the community, so her time was filled with commitments, and yet she was flexible so we could travel as a family. I saw how she was in charge of her own time rather than being accountable to an employer. For me, that was true “work/life balance” and a goal I aspired to. Of course, that required one full-time worker in the family or independent wealth. I believe that my era (mid ’80s) was the last group of young women where there was a certain percentage who expected to marry and NOT work after graduation. There was much debate about being supported by your husband versus being an independent woman. I wanted to work but never felt the need to give hours and hours to a job because my life outside the job was equally or MORE important to me .” Class of 1984

“I’ve always used this phrase ‘margin time’ that my high school history teacher taught to us. If life is writing a paper, you have to find space in the margins for yourself.” Class of 2013

“I only knew that I wanted both a demanding career and a family without thinking about how that would play out in reality.” Class of 2000

“It never occurred to me when I was in college (or younger) that there would be an imbalance. It never occurred to me when I was working too much that that was not exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It was not until someone started singing this tune about 7-8 years ago that I began to even contemplate the concept.” Class of 1992

“It resembled my mother’s life. That was the only frame of reference I had at the time.” Class of 1987

Question: Is the reality of your work/life balance now different from how you thought it would be when you were a Hollins student?

“I have less to balance than I thought I would because I don’t have children or a husband.” Class of 2003

“More complex than I thought; it takes organization and skill that are hard to learn.” Class of 1997

“I didn’t think about how much ‘work’ was not actually being employed. It’s also cooking and cleaning and organizing. Some might say that that is all part of life, but I disagree. Just because that household work is in my home and is not for money does not mean it’s any less work and throws off my work-life balance.” Class of 2013

“I’m a single mother now, and that was not anything I had considered before it was becoming a reality.” Class of 2000

“Never imagined I’d quit work and stay home with kids.” Class of 1998

“It is much harder than I expected and my career has taken a back seat at times. Also, my husband is now a ‘stay at home dad.”’ which works well for us but is unusual, still.” Class of 1984

“I think I always knew that it would be hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance but I don’t think I appreciated how hard that would be. I always knew I wanted to be married, but I don’t think I ever thought about how my schooling and career path would impact my significant other. In other words, when you’re in college, you’re often tied to no one so the world is your oyster. You can travel when and where you want, go to school for as little or as long as you want, make as little or as much as you want, work as much or as little as you want, etc. But once you have another person in your life be that a significant other and/or children, those decisions are no longer just about what you want; it’s about balancing what you want with what your significant other wants (keeping in mind they may have their own careers/wants/dreams) and what’s best for your children. As a college student, I think I theoretically understood that, but you just can’t appreciate the implications of that until you live it.” Class of 2006

“We can be contacted (personally or professionally) anytime of the day or night via various platforms such as email, apps, etc.” Class of 1998

“While I didn’t think about it per se in college, I always envisioned a different life than what is happening now.” Class of 1990

“I always knew I would work. I hoped to have children and a family but wasn’t ready for the gritty details of getting everyone dentists’ appointments, the bathrooms cleaned and health insurance availability. It is harder.” Class of 1985

“Much harder to balance being a working mom with career aspirations, raise two kids, be a good wife and give back to my local community. I never thought I would have to say ‘no.’” Class of 2004

“I left the workforce to become a full-time mom after a terrible child care experience. It’s too difficult to do it all – all at the same time.” Class of 1990

“I have been surprised at how much I feel the need to balance work with family life but also vice versa. My work is important to my mental well-being as much as my family is. That said, there is no balance. There are peaks and valleys.” Class of 1990

“In college I thought of work as separate from home life, and in my early jobs out of college it was. But I transitioned into the nonprofit sector and love what I do for work, so it feels less like work and more of an extension of my life.” Class of 2006

“I did stay home with my children for many years. In college I didn’t think about how to balance life once I went back to work. It didn’t occur to me I would need to also balance special time with my husband, extended family, and friends. My mother made this look easy!” Class of 1989

“I underestimated my need to be successful, yes somewhat for myself, but more importantly as a competition; at Hollins my competitive outlets shifted from extra-curricular to work. This was good for my career, not for balance. I married in late 20’s and didn’t have my son until early 30’s. And I had to make changes.” – Class of 1992

“In college, I fantasized working all the time would be like what I saw in Sandra Bullock movies, fun. It’s not. I’m finally on the executive track and I’m questioning it because I have no life.” Class of 2008

“I think it is better. A lot richer than I’d imagined. You just never know where your choices might take you.” – Class of 1991

“It did not occur to me back then how important being at home for my kids would be to me.” Class of 1990

“I had misconceived notions about work/life balance and salary expectations, as well as the difficulty of finding employment. Much of my expectations were based on my parents’ careers. I graduated during the financial crisis of 2008, which affected my job search greatly. I think my generation differs from previous generations in that technology has changed the concept of 9-5 work days and true paid time off. Many employees are now expected to be available at all hours. A benefit of technological advances, though, is that there is the option to work remotely, which is helpful to those with children.” Class of 2008

“I’ve opted for a low stress job, but I still can’t do it all. The house never feels clean enough, making dinners every night, helping the kids with school work. It’s still a lot but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” – Class of 1997

“My children are now grown college graduates, but I will answer for the years when they were at home: I expected greater flexibility and understanding from other women in the educational/academic world, especially those in leadership. There is almost none.” – Class of 1980

“I am working full time, plus have a part-time job, in order to advance my career, which is a second career started once my children were older. I never considered that at this age I would be planning for new horizons while keeping my partner happy with my availability.” – Class of 1987

“I didn’t realize how all-consuming children would be, and it is something that I have to work at all the time. Healthy marriage and children don’t come out of a vacuum. They take work.” Class of 1991

”When I was still in college, I never thought about work/life balance and didn’t really know the phrase existed. And even during the ten years after graduation, I never really thought about it. When I started working for Random House, the phrase began to be used, but I had an amazing boss who cared a lot about it so I always felt there was a good balance. Later, after he left the company and I got a new boss, I realized that a good work/life balance only exists when the boss believes in it.” Class of 1991

Question: Is balancing work and life a challenge for you? How do you find balance?

“Yes, I want to do my best and excel at work, and I often work late or come in early voluntarily to do so. My job also demands occasional evening and weekend work that can be physically draining (events). More and more I feel the responsibility to respond to texts or calls from my manager or other coworkers at night or on the weekends. I balance this by sharing responsibilities with my husband; trying to set expectations about sacred personal time when I cannot be reached; and using all vacation days offered me.” Class of 2002

“It is a financial challenge more than anything else. There is never enough money being made to create the quality of life that gives balance. If more money is made, work is primary. If less money is made, life is hard.” – Class of 2003

“I still see work-life balance as a privilege. There are many people who simply do not have that luxury because they’re just working to feed themselves (and others). For myself, my greatest struggle is in allowing myself to do the things that I enjoy and not feel guilt over it. Therapy helps, intention helps, a Google calendar helps; but, I’m still working on it. It’s a work in progress.” – Class of 2011

“My colleagues understand that I value my time outside of work and they respect that boundary.” Class of MALS 2014

“Being a single mother, it is nearly impossible to ‘balance’ family, a career, friendships/social efforts, and my own personal well-being. Often, some things I do very well, while others take the back seat, and those are ever-shifting. I do my best to care for myself first, then the rest comes from there.” – Class of 2000

“I’ve made a choice to stay home. Considering returning to work and the balance is at forefront of my consideration.” Class of 1992

“I balance it by being ok at a lot of things. Not super mom or super employee, but pretty great at both.” – Class of 2006

“When I first worked, I let work run my life. I learned in the first 10 years that it does not benefit you to do that. What’s the point of work if you can’t enjoy your life?” – Class of 1988

“I recently stopped working in order to focus on my family. Balance has been better achieved. I am glad to be free to the myth of ‘having it all.’” – Class of 2004

“I am careful about what I sign up for. That said, the more involved I am, the less time I spend with my family. Dinner is always tricky with busy teenage daughters. Everyone has a different schedule. Uber has been a lifesaver!” – Class of1990

“There is such a delicate balance. Time is the most precious commodity we have. Giving of myself to my family, my clients, my friends and my community are all important to me. It doesn’t take much to tip the scales on one end or the other. I forget to intentionally carve out time for myself.” – Class of 1980

“Still an ingrained competitive strive for perfectionism, but I have stepped down from high level roles to spend time with my son and that has been worth every second!” – Class of 1992

“I don’t know that I ever balance it. I’ve heard the analogy of work/life being like a see saw, sometimes I go through periods where I focus on one side more but as long as I come back down and make time for the other, I feel balanced overall.” Class of 2006

“It is hard for me to say no, but that’s the only way I don’t over-commit. My motto is work hard and play harder. I also have set specific boundaries for work commitments and volunteer commitments. It is really hard to see my friends.” – Class of 2004

“Over the years, the mental and emotional toll of keeping track of many balls in the air was more punishing than I ever thought it would be. Add an ill parent to raising children, and a woman can nearly lose her career. Oh yes, some leave is now tolerated, but after such an interruption, one is not considered as seriously as before by colleagues or leadership.” – Class of 1980

“I feel like I am doing rather well. I have learned to have patience with myself and let go of perfection.” – Class of 2004

“I work from home one day a week to save on childcare costs. Getting work done with a one-year-old is challenging, and more often than not, I play with my son during the day and do work during his naps and after he goes to bed. The rest of the week, though, I think we have a pretty good balance; I’m able to leave early enough to pick up my son from daycare before 5 p.m. and my family is able to spend our dinnertime and evenings together.” – Class of 2010

Question:  Is balance a goal? Why or why not?

“No, Live life to the fullest. Work more, play more, travel more than others. It’s all about energy and focus.” – Class of 1984

“Balance is definitely a goal for me now. I have given up on finding work that I love enough to make my life; instead I am focusing on making my family, mental health, and personal growth priorities.” – Class of 2005

“Definitely. If only to stop feeling so resentful.” – Class of 2013

“It’s a goal, but so is understanding that there are times in life circumstances make it impossible.” – Class of 1991

“Balance to the point of happiness, not perfection.” – Class of 2006

“The term ‘balance’ is thrown around quite a bit. I would rather look at it as comfortable with your life. Some people love working a great deal, others need the gym once a day. Some love the chaos of home life. You just have to work towards knowing yourself enough to know what works best for you.” – Class of 1986

“Yes. And I am happy with my current choices, imperfect as they are.” – no class year given

“No. I view work as a part of my life, not as a competitor in my life.” – Class of 1981

“I don’t think balance is the right word. It’s more about flexibility and being honest with what you need to be doing when.” – Class of 2000

“I’m not really sure what balance is. I think feeling like I’m reasonably doing the best I can and figuring out which systems need to be put in place to make that happen, is the real goal.” – Class of 2005

Question: What would you tell your 20-year-old-self now about work and life balance?

“Set expectations and norms from the start about your boundaries. Be firm but reasonable.” – Class of 2002

“Just because you can do something alone doesn’t mean you should do something alone. Seek help. Build your village. Allow others to support you and love you. Lean on the people you trust. Learn your boundaries and establish them. GO TO THERAPY. You deserve to be seen and wholly recognized, and you deserve to live a life that’s joyful. Take care of yourself because, in caring for yourself, you care for others.” – Class of 2011

“Work harder and smarter. Worry less. Know you are strong enough to handle life. Always find the silver linings in unwanted news or events. In the early days of your career, it is very important to work long, hard hours. I was a wife at 22, president of a company at 32, mother at 33. Now, at 56, I run three companies, travel, entertain, garden, cook. Most of all, I delegate.” – Class of 1984

“There is no one solution. You will find that life is made of seasons, some where work is focus, others where family is focus and some in between. Just roll with it and do not burn bridges, you never know who you will end up working for or with. And find other women, allies, peers and mentors, and when someone gives you an opportunity, pay it forward.”” – Class of 1997

“Learn what you need and how to ask for it.” – Class of 2013

“Making a plan is great but being resilient when the plan doesn’t work is even more important. Give yourself multiple plan options and take a breath in between when/if one doesn’t work. Develop an adaptive self-care routine and take time to reflect on what matters to you right now and the things that will be important to you in the future as you continue to develop your career.” – Class of 2013

“Think about what it will mean to you down the road. If you choose to have children and work, think about what you may miss with your children. On the flip side, choosing not to work may also affect who you are as a person. And if you want to go back to work once children are older, you need to think about a career that would allow or encourage that. Think about how to involve yourself in your kids activities and maybe that is fulfilling enough or at least gives you some experience to fall back on when re-entering the workforce.” – Class of 1994

“Work and recognition are great, but one does need to balance it with non-work or life experiences too. Work-eat-sleep is not a good pattern. I have been there and done that and would prefer to have more non-work friends and fun times.” – Class of 1982

“I would tell my younger self about self-care and how essential it is to have a healthy and meaningful life. I would also tell my younger self that it’s okay to let some things go. At least in the museum world, most things can wait until the next day or week or month. It’s not life and death.” – Class of 2006

“There is not a one size fits all in any of this. Some people are miserable staying home and miss work, some are miserable not staying home, others MUST (for financial reasons) work and others are able to make a choice. Follow your gut and heart. Some people love working 70 hours a week, others are fine with 10. The only thing that really matters is what works best for you and your situation.” – Class of 1986

“Balance is very important, but it is very difficult. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t take care of others – either mentally or physically. I honestly don’t know how to do it all – all at the same time – well. Being an excellent mother, employee, wife, and contributing member of the community is challenging. What’s frustrating is that my husband never thinks about these things. I think I would tell my 20-year-old self to choose a great partner as a husband, find a great caregiver to help raise your child, and remember to take care of yourself. It takes a village, so make sure to find it!” – Class of 1990

“Don’t underestimate the importance of working for a business with core values that align with your own, as that where the definition of balance will stem from.” – Class of 2005

“Keep perspective on what is possible. Take more risks, don’t be afraid to move into a new direction of work if it brings you more happiness and better work hours.” – Class of 1988

“Never sacrifice your personal needs or your priorities for work. “Work to live”, but never engage in a work culture that expects you to “live to work.” – Class of 2002

“I would tell myself to find work which is meaningful and to work throughout whether it is full time or part time or volunteer. Children are young for such a short time. They grow up and fly off. My work not only provides income but also makes my life more meaningful, with more purpose and direction. I have too many friends who were blindsided by divorce or death of a spouse who never worked and now must fend for themselves. I also have friends who, once their children were gone, have found themselves at a loss for what to do. My mother at 83 is still working and it keeps her young because she loves what she does.” – Class of 1980

“If there is a voice in your head that for example says I should probably do my laundry right now, do the laundry. Don’t listen to voice that tells you to do it tomorrow unless something more important came up. Do it today and leave tomorrow for you.” – Class of 2015

“Balance is not a fixed state, and it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It (like ambition) changes shape as your life changes. I think it is important to be self-aware — know your strengths, be conscious of your priorities, and continue to advocate for what works best for you. It is also important, if you are going to marry and have a family, to have a partner who is supportive.” – no class given

“Go for it. You probably will anyway and it’s going to be a great ride. Trust In yourself. You got this.” – Class of 1985

“You will reinvent yourself countless times throughout your life, so don’t get overly stressed about work or life or the balance.” – Class of 1992

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