Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer and Beyonce have brought the question of having it all to light once again. IThere have been some great articles on this of by @amotherisborn, The Broad Side and I was interviewed as well. While I’m optimistic about the potential for collective change, I think the conversation is starting to drive us all a little nuts.
Reviving Ophelia was written in 1994 to address the intense social pressures and corresponding psychological impact on adolescent girls. Girls were driving themselves to extremes to meet restrictive ideals of womanhood. Now it’s 20 years later and those same women are trying to fit into similarly narrow definitions of working motherhood. Is Sheryl Sandberg is to working moms today what Kate Moss was to girls then?
We (my clients, my colleagues and most of the parents I know) are not slackers. We are strong, ambitious, talented, TYPE A people who focus on achievement and high standards of excellence. We want to be recognized for a job well done. Once we become parents, we pressure ourselves to do everything perfectly at work and at home. New moms are constantly googling and posting on message boards for answers on how to ace working parenthood and everything that goes with it: childcare-type, quality and cost; proving ourselves all over again at work, parenting strategies; marriage-bread winning and power dynamics, housework-division of labor. Anything you can think of really.
Anne Marie Slaughter’s article pointed out some systemic changes that need to happen in re: workplace and legislative policies. After becoming parents the demands on us forces us squeeze into our schedules like square pegs in round holes. We are working at all hours so they can prove themselves to colleagues AND see their kids.
Sandberg and to some extent leaders like Mayer seem to be offering or implying that there is a formula to having it all that they figured out. Implying that there is one path that, if followed correctly, can bring similar success. Offering one formula only makes moms think they are doing it wrong. I actually had a new mom, an SVP of a bank, pull out a pen and paper in a work-life balance discussion to try to get women around the table to reveal “the recipe” for work life (how many hours at work/how many at home etc). She was not joking. Many of us follow straight paths to success our whole lives and intend to stay on that path even with little institutional support. Maybe this movement will provide some social support, maybe not.
Many of us burn out believing that even it’s not what we want, this formula is for success. But there isn’t one way to get the rewards we want in life. Finding work-life fit is possible. It’s also very personal and subjective. It’s a process of habitually reevaluating and re-prioritizing.
The REworking Ideal: Lean in by embracing your own vision and priorities for work and life.