Does work-life balance mean we need to settle for a B+?

My colleague and fellow solo blogger, Jill Pugh Employment Law Blog tipped me off to an interesting new resource, Ms-JD to address the growing number of women leaving the legal profession or failing to reach the upper echelons of the profession. The site seems promising, though thus far, there’s little mention of the law firm start up as a way to empower women (a failing of other similar projects that I’ve critiqued previously here). Since Ms. JD is new, I’ll give it some time….

Besides, I’m grateful to Ms. JD for introducing me to this outstanding essay by legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick that speaks to the conflict that many struggling to balance work and life confront daily (myself included: whether we simply need to settle for doing less than our best, for getting the B+ rather than the A.

From Lithwick’s essay:

I once read somewhere that the notion of “balancing” work and family is a misnomer. Two enterprises that require 100% of your attention can never be in balance. The real goal is to “integrate” them. But while that can work if you plan to start a daycare in your basement, it’s hard to pull off if you work in the law. I suppose, if I were to be completely honest then, the way I have chosen to “integrate” my work and my babies is by doing work that could always be better. Stories that could have stood another draft are sometimes filed as they are, so I can climb into the bathtub with baby Sopher. Conferences and dinner parties that would offer up contacts and opportunities are foregone for the chance to sit on the big stuffed bear and watch Superman for the 240th time. And aggregated across weeks and years, that is, of course, all time that could have gone to a spectacular career[…]
It is hard, particularly as lawyers, to accept B-pluses as mothers or as workers. We are capable of A’s. We expect them. We earned them. But until someone figures out a way to make one woman hold down two full-time jobs; we’re going to be overwhelmed and frustrated and torn. For awhile. And then – as I keep reminding myself – our babies gallop off to kindergarten and the prospect of focusing on a single task for more than two consecutive hours stops being a fantasy.

I agree with Lithwick. I often wonder where my career would be if I’d pursued it with all of my attention, just like I wonder what my daughters would be like if I’d stopped working entirely and devoted all my attention to them. And yet, at the same time, there’s something about multi-tasking that makes you want to do more. I doubt that I’d have started MyShingle or had the opportunities that it’s brought me unless I was working part time and looking for new ways to do more.

What’s your view? Have you found the elusive work life balance or do you feel that you’re burning the candle at both ends?