Redondo Beach resident Michelle Waters has become a vibrant voice in the conversation about work and life balance for the modern woman. Her passion for career and family integration evolved after a tragic fire ravaged her hometown in Australia and left her husband and three small children without a home. She quickly found herself acting as an advocate for families, helping them rebuild their lives through home and work life.
After moving to California, Waters met Kelly Watson and Jodi Detjen while working with Third Path, a non-profit organization with a mission to assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. The three bonded over a shared frustration in teaching that balance to women.
“We got fed up with hearing the same problems from women,” Waters said. “Women were consistently struggling with getting into the executive ranks at work while having a family.”
Waters, Watson and Detjen decided to tackle the questions surrounding motherhood and career success. They began surveying 118 college educated women across the U.S. to find out why work and life balance is harder for females. They published what they learned in the book “The Orange Line: A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family & Life.”
“We heard the stories of women who balanced work and family well and those who were very limited,” said Waters. “We looked at the subtleties and nuances.”
What they found was an overarching mentality that ruled how women approach both the work and family aspects of their lives.
“Women want to be liked,” she said. “It’s primal; we are relational. Our worst habits that spring from that ideology because we feel primarily responsible for home and family and we demand perfection from ourselves.”
The authors broke down the female problematic into three unreal expectations women place on themselves: do it all, look good and be nice.
“We want women to start rethinking these assumptions,” Waters said. “The feminine filter informing our priorities doesn’t serve us anymore in the 21st century. We are making sacrifices we don’t need to make.”
“The Orange Line” refers to the sweet spot the authors identify as the key to work and life balance for women.
“The green line is how women approach life just out of college,” Waters said. “They hit the ground running and nothing can derail their career. The red line comes when women choose to opt out of their professional lives because of family obligations. We teach living on the orange line, where you balance both family and work with health and consciousness.”
The book also addresses burning out, the state of exhaustion and diminished interest in working life. It is something Waters, herself, experienced.
“I had no idea how to say no when I was younger,” she said. “I had never had an argument with my husband, who I later divorced. I never challenged my assumptions about responsibility.”
Waters was forced to slow down when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago.
“Without doubt, having cancer made me learn presence,” she said. “When you are that ill, you are very much in the moment. I knew that had to become a practice. I knew I had to keep that.”
Now a personal coach for women, mindfulness and presence are some of the holistic approaches Waters teaches those struggling to find balance.
“To balance your life, you need to have a strong sense of self,” she said. “You need to be present at work and present at home. And you need realistic expectations around both of these.”
Instead of doing it all and pressuring themselves to always look good and be nice, “The Orange Line” teaches women to do what’s required, do what’s right and be authentic.
“I know from going deep inside myself that the balance comes from within,” Waters said. It is all about how you respond to outside pressures. If you have a strong sense of self and are in touch with who you are, no one can take that away from you.
Waters is currently works with organizations and individuals on a conscious seven-step approach to work, life, family integration. For more information about Waters and he co-authors, visit orangelinecareer.com.