Last week I spoke on a panel for a women’s support and gender diversity group in my office. There I was sat in between two very established leaders feeling somewhat inadequate, but the panel went great and I left feeling very proud. Pride was not the only thing I was feeling though. A woman who sat on the panel said something to me that left me feeling shook.
The first question was about maintaining work life balance and the other panelist chose to answer in regards to being a parent. Now this is a topic that has been very sensitive to me in recent days. I have been thinking about the predicament of how to have two kids ( a boy and a girl) within two years of one another and also get a role in leadership. The thought seemed impossible but this is the age of “women in the workplace”, “gender equality” and “18 month maternity leaves”, right?
The first answer came from a woman who I look up to, she is educated, smart, well-dressed and very successful. She very openly shared that she did not have work life balance and that she missed out on a lot. Her husband was fantastic and really pulled his weight in raising their kids. She said, “you really can’t have it all.” What she meant was that you can’t always be the mom who shows up to every soccer game and also achieve great accomplishments in your career. Something’s gotta give. My jaw literally hit the floor. This is the first time I thought that as a women I would not be able to be perfect at everything. And boy was I glad she cleared that up.
I’m sick of women being shamed on both sides: you’re a crap mom if you have a successful career or you can’t handle an established career because you want to raise your kids. It’s like, we still can’t win. And honestly, have we swung so far to the other side of the pendulum that we now shame women for wanting to have children. What type of feminist is she?
I interviewed my mom this week on my The Modern Day Workaholic podcast and she made a very brave statement: “Her career has never been her focus and she wanted to be a mom.” How dare she!? These words are so very rarely uttered these days I almost forgot that at one time it was the expectation for women to do just that. And now we are fighting against the idea of being a mom in pursuit of a seat at the “big boys table.”
To be quite honest, I’m torn. I struggle with pull between family and work and I haven’t even had kids. We often end up waiting for that perfect time to start a family, after my next promotion, once I get a leadership role, after my MBA. But what if we are waiting for a time that doesn’t exist? I have no advice in this particular query but I can say this: you do you, sister. Keep your eyes in your own lane, don’t compare yourself to others and live your values.
Now obviously there are tons of female leaders out there who are very successful and have children, I praise these women. But after hearing this woman speak on the panel it was clear to me that sacrifices are made for one or the other.