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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

An Archimom's Everyday Moments of Truth: Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA

In my social media feed, it was difficult to overlook the #ArchiTalks series last week prompted by Life of An Architect blogger and architect Bob Borson AIA. With the topic "A Day in the Life of …” the like-minded bloggers/architects did a wonderful job composing a diverse range of responses. While individual contributions, each response was strategically posted on the same day through social media. It was like an early holiday gift of personal narratives about my favorite kind of people—architects.

While reading the many posts, I have learned we all wake up early, we all struggle with things we don't want to do, we all think about the now and the future, and we all eventually go to asleep to wake up and do it again... and again. There were moments in which I saw how my life was similar, but also uniquely different. I was not the only one to notice this. As Laura Thomas AIA and AIASF The Missing 32% pointed out on Twitter, what was missing from the collective group was the voice of an #ArchiMom.

I was encouraged by how many parents (fathers) were featured. My kids are fortunate to have not one, but two architect parents, so I love that parenting was a key part of many of the daily chronicles especially for fathers. But still, where were the mothers?

It's OK. We're used to being flying on their periphery of keeping up with water cooler conversation. I have been known to roll my eyes at the office sports talk in the morning. Either I'm too old or I have to pick up my kids to go out with my co-workers for regular Friday drinks. And yes, I do keep an extra set of clothes at work.

I am an architect. I am a mother. And this is my list of everyday moments of truth to contribute to the conversation because honestly, there is no typical day for me:

  • I work on things that don't get done. Not because I lack the ability to get them done, but because there is no 'done', only an agreement with myself that the work has moved closer to 'good enough'.
  • I think wild thoughts. This is because I am and will always be a dreamer. (This is either a symptom or a side effect of falling in love with architecture.)
  • I get obsessed by details. I get obsessed by process. I get obsessed by typeface. I get obsessed by making an excel spreadsheet. I get obsessed at the screw that is not placed in the right location. If OCD is marked by anxiety and unease of triggers, what do I call when I get really worked by my visual environment? I love to see. I love to think. I love to design. It is very difficult to turn this off and not notice my environment.
  • I get stopped by 10,000 little questions about 10,000 little things every single day. Sometimes my patience runs short. OK, often my patience runs short. Maybe if I wasn't interrupted so much I could get things done... maybe not. Quiet is a luxury.
  • Getting lost in the work is part of the work. Design is not a linear process.
  • Nothing can be found unless it is first declared lost. (My kids are so sick of me saying this.)
  • More than my love for architecture, I love people. Without people there are no buildings.
  • Architecture is a form of education. Architecture is a form of communication. We are as much teachers and storytellers as space creators and problem solvers. We co-create the environment of a space and its meaning. Architecture will always be more than just a building.
  • I work to fulfill both my potential as an architect and to create a better world for my children. Seeing the world through their eyes has been a life changing experience for me. I am a better architect because of them. I am a better person for them.

Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA, LEED AP, @egraia

Associate, Cambridge Seven Architects


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