As Women, We Are Our Own Best Source of Inspiration
For many of us moms, success is too often defined and driven by outside factors and interpretations of what and how we "should" do things. I just finished Sheryl Sandberg's book which came out today and I think she perpetuates this view. She talks about leaning into a career by reaching for opportunities, taking a seat at the table, raising expectations, withstanding criticism and the like, but we are missing the conversation about finding success on your own terms.
The Facebook COO talks about an updated women's movement and the ambition gap that is limiting women's ability to advance in the workplace. But advance to what degree - the chief executive level? That is not the goal of millions of professional women. They are looking to be successful on their terms and to raise a family in a way that aligns with those terms. Her book is an interesting read and great for young women starting out and those who want to get to the top, but it really doesn't speak to the other 99 percent of us not willing or able to approach work in the way Sheryl outlines.
I recently wrote an opinion piece for WorkingMother.com about the importance of women supporting other women as we make our preferences known. I also offer a couple suggestions and insight for making it all work. I hope you find something here that you can use and pass along.
I confess, I turned 40 this year. The anticipation was a little unnerving, but now that I'm here, I'm really eager about the reputed other side of the hill. I'm in a good place right now. My kids are learning and growing, my business is thriving, and my relationships (both personal and professional) are becoming more rich and authentic. Beyond my newfound "maturity," could it be that finding alignment between work and life has made me more content? Either way, I'll take it!
Something else I'm really appreciating more: smart, intrepid women who have something to say, exciting ideas and a desire for sharing with the rest of us. I've had the pleasure of meeting some of these women specifically in the past year and have taken at least a bit of advice and insight from each of them. Arianna Huffington, Cali Yost of Flex+Strategy Group, Ellen Galinsky of Families and Work Institute, and my Ernst & Young 2012 Entrepreneurial Winning Women class, to name a few. I am grateful for what they have contributed and inspired by their success.
Someone I came across last week piqued my interest. Former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief, Kate White, writes in this endearingWorkingMother.com post about "My 6 Best Gutsy Tips for Working Mothers." Perhaps this is so likeable because throughout the piece Ms. White shares stories and lessons learned from her time as a working mother, wife and the head of arguably one of the most successful women's magazines. In some ways, we can all relate to her. In other ways, we can't. But that's all part of the fun.
Inspired by the advice I've received and the approaching New Year, I thought I would share my top three tried-and-true tips for finding better alignment and flexible work scenario in 2013. I hope to pass along an idea, a reflection or perhaps a little motivation to make a change if you need one.
• Think of the workday as a 24-hour clock. Take an hour off here or there to be with your kids, then get back on the computer in the evening and wrap up your workday. When the kids get off the bus, be there to ask them how their day was and what they learned in school. Kei Nomaguchi, PhD, associate professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University says focused attention is best in this article: "Kids want focused time with their parents. It doesn't have to be long - 20 minutes may be enough - but give them all your attention." Getting back to work after these little breaks won't be as hard when you've spent those few extra minutes with them.
• Let your kids know you love what you do. Showing that you have interest in something and take great pleasure in your work helps your little ones respect you as a mother and as your own person. While your family life is a top priority, don't feel guilty about having a professional life that is rewarding and important. When your children see you excel at something, it will inspire them to follow suit. In fact, studies show that loving your job contributes to a healthy, happy home.
• If you have it in you, be an entrepreneur. According to our recent survey, 67 percent of working adults believe that it is possible to "have it all" when it comes to work/life balance. But like Ms. White's gutsy tip number one, no one at the office is going to remind you to get home at 5:30 to be with your kids. You have to make that happen. Through business ownership, you have infinitely more control of how you divide you work and family time. Even if being an entrepreneur isn't for you, find what works for you and your family and put it into practice.
Let us resolve together to be supportive, share ideas, and strengthen our voice to advance the progress we want to see. Want to work at a company that understands flexibility is just as good for them as it is for you? Want to know that other working mothers are out there fighting that same 6 p.m. witching hour? Want to share your success in asking for that flex schedule? Want to know how others did it? Let us all be part of the conversation.