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Balancing act: A discussion on being Darth Vader, other dream jobs while finding workplace flexibility

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 4:04 a.m. MDT

Star Wars Darth Vader is escorted by storm troopers while touring the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 in New York. To celebrate the lasting appeal of the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm Ltd. executives and the Star Wars characters visited the exchange and rang the opening bell. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams) (Henny Ray Abrams, AP) Star Wars Darth Vader is escorted by storm troopers while touring the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 in New York. To celebrate the lasting appeal of the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm Ltd. executives and the Star Wars characters visited the exchange and rang the opening bell. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams) (Henny Ray Abrams, AP)

I have yet to hear of anyone else who had childhood dreams of growing up to be Darth Vader.

However, I have received other responses to recent columns about dream jobs and workplace flexibility, so I've decided to share some this week.

One interesting response to the column about a LinkedIn survey on dream jobs came from a reader named Andrew. He described himself in an email as "a 34-year-old married father of three who hasn't figured out what to be when he grows up."

"For a long time I was kind of depressed about all of the failures I've endured over the years, but as I thought about it, I realized that I have a lot of really funny stories to tell, so I've started writing about it," Andrew wrote.

He does have some humorous experiences to share, and I'm guessing you'll be able to relate to them. Check out his blog if you're interested in reading more.

Another reader posted a comment online congratulating me and my wife for raising daughters who can see themselves in careers outside of the home, "especially in fields such as medicine and engineering."

"Women can pursue careers and motherhood," this reader wrote. "Girls and young women should always be encouraged to aspire to more than 'just being a mom,' … just as young boys are encouraged to aspire to more than 'just being a dad.'

"You never know, for sure, if marriage/parenthood is in your children's future (for any number of reasons), but you can be fairly certain they will need to be able to support themselves financially, so you should encourage them to find a career that they can enjoy for a few decades, as the retirement age is only going to increase."

While I believe that the roles of mother and father are the most important that any woman and man, respectively, can have, I do agree that it's important for all of our youth to prepare to support themselves. We've tried to teach our children that they can develop the knowledge and skills to tackle almost any occupation, if they put their minds to it. It's amazing watching them grow, and I can't wait to see how they do as they chase those ambitious dreams of theirs.

As for me, I'm still chasing the dream of building better work-life balance, and I've written quite a bit recently about those personal goals and the role of workplace flexibility in reaching them.

In response to a column a couple of weeks ago in which I shared my "A-to-Z" list of work-life balance successes, failures and advice, one reader posted a comment online saying it included several applicable points.

"My favorite was 'At home, I try to focus on family,’ ” she wrote. "I like to think of the workday as a 24-hour clock, taking an hour off here or there to be with my kids and then hopping back on the computer at night so I can do the work that I missed. Getting back to work after these short breaks with your spouse and kids won’t be as difficult now that you have spent a few extra minutes with them.

"Kei Nomaguchi, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University, says even just 20 minutes of your attention makes a difference. Further, it's important to let your kids know how much you love your job. This helps them to respect you as a parent and as a businessperson they could look up to."

It is vital to give that attention to one's spouse and children, and I would say the more time they get, the better. That's why I'm so glad my job now does not require much work from home.

Other readers responded to last week's column on the importance of flexibility at work. One posted a comment online vouching for the value employees place on flexible workplaces.

"I can tell you, I work at a company that has a good work-life program, and it is really hard to shake," this commenter wrote. "While I could make much more somewhere else, giving up the freedom/benefits would be really hard to do."

Another reader posted a similar response.

"Flexibility is worth a lot," he wrote. "I can come and go as I need to. But it's taken years here to build up to that level of trust, that my employer trusts that, even though I might not be in the office, I'll get my work done. Too often people decide that salary is the main driver for employment, but flexibility should be a major consideration."

I completely agree with both of these commenters. Of course it's vital to make enough money to support yourself and your family. But if you can do that and have the flexibility to spend time with the people who are most important to you, it's worth a sacrifice of extra dollars.

Finally, a person commenting on a Facebook posting of last week's column wrote that she felt fortunate to have a husband who telecommutes from a home office.

"He rarely misses any of the kids' activities, unless he is traveling," she wrote. "Sometimes I forget how blessed I am that he is usually available to pick kids up, or take them to school, or run errands in the middle of the day, or take me on a lunch date. I admit I would complain a bit if he had to start working 'regular' hours."

That is a fortunate arrangement, and I'm sure your husband appreciates it, too.

I'd be interested to hear any other advice or stories you have to share regarding your efforts to build more balanced lives. Please send them my way, and I'll use some of them in future columns.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.

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