Women: What guilt and men have to do with work-life balance

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(MoneyWatch) A new leadership book, "Getting to 50/50," highlights the perpetual debate about the proper work-life balance for parents, particularly for women. Along with her co-author Joanna Strober (and with a foreword by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg), Sharon Meers maps out a detailed plan. First, women need to "fire guilt." Second, they need to give men leading roles at home. And third, we need to realize that "good: is the goal, not perfection.

The authors also share practical advice drawn from experience as well as from social science research. And Meers has plenty of real-life experience -- she is a mother and leads Enterprise strategy at Magento, the global ecommerce platform of eBay. She's also a former managing director at Goldman Sachs. Here's what she had to say in a brief conversation about her new book.

CBS MoneyWatch: What does "50/50" refer to in this book, and what does it mean to you?

Sharon Meers: 50/50 means men and women sharing power and playing equally important roles at work and at home. 50/50 is about all of us -- men, women, children, employers -- having much, much more of what we want by changing the way we perceive our choices in career, marriage and childrearing.

Why is getting to 50/50 so crucial?

As we talked to hundreds of working men and women, a pattern emerged: Couples win from standing in each others' shoes, day after day, and committing themselves equally to raising their children and breadwinning for a family. Mothers work without guilt; fathers bond with their kids; children blossom with the attention of two equally involved parents.

Why haven't flexible work schedules become the norm?

Working parents certainly need the ability to address the needs of their kids, whether that's getting a sick child to the doctor or picking up at day care on time. That said, employers need great results from everyone. Two things really help -- measuring what matters and planning ahead. Agree with your boss what things really matter and how you can measure them. Then do a lot of that and report back. And try to anticipate which meetings or travel is essential, and make sure you have back up at home: your spouse, friends or other family. Build relationships at work so others can step in for you if you have an emergency at home

Why do smart bosses tell their parents, and all employees, to "go home," as you write in the book?

No matter where you sit in the food chain, there are only so many productive hours your brain can put in. After that, you'll make mistakes and you'll make a mess. Studies show that working parents who make it home in time for dinner are actually happier, healthier and more successful at work. When your kids are in a good place, when you have enough time to connect with your family, that makes you a more positive, productive person at work. 

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.