Why are we doing this? Really, I think it’s relevant that we give that some thought.
I started this morning working on an essay titled “the delicate art of self-promotion.” In very short order, I was knee-deep in articles about leaning in and getting ahead (one list of which included the advice, “if you have small children, talk about them as little as possible,” and I felt my blood beginning to boil.
Again, why are we doing this?
Because if the entire point of your life is to get to the C-suite, then you have a very clear set of instructions ahead of you. If the point of your life is to actually be happy, then it gets a little muddier.
I’ll link to an article today that I think should be required reading for all women on the challenging path of working motherhood. (It’s massive; set aside half an hour for this one.) It’s badly titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. The article is much more nuanced and complete than the title would imply.
The highly accomplished author has the courage to talk about how she, and many women she knows and admires, want more than the C suite. She also talks a great deal about how technology and culture are changing in ways that allow us to do more work/family combining than was possible years ago. She also talks about areas where we still struggle.
I love my work (most days). I’m grateful (so grateful) that I have been successful. My work for pay has made my world bigger, provided me with opportunities to exercise my brain in ways that laundry just does not, and provided economic opportunities for my family that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Enforced time away has also made me treasure my children. I can’t wait to be with them. I talk about them in job interviews to be sure that my prospective employers have a culture that values family, because an understanding employer is a must for me. This challenging, crazy-making, often circus-like world of “balance” has been a wonderful way to live. I’m glad I work.
But my work is not my life, and success at work does not define a successful life for me.
I had my first baby at thirty. My youngest will move out of the house when I am fifty-four. Am I supposed to consider this twenty-four year period just some sort of pause in a glittering career? That twenty-four year period is, so far, the most precious of my life. I’m glad I work, but motherhood, and a happy marriage, that is what glitters.
I am a driver. I was in the top of my high school class, graduated from a fancy college in three and a half years, have a box full of wood and crystal and pay stubs from a career that has been hugely rewarding in so many ways… but my most treasured achievement is that my family loves each other. That we laugh and talk and value each other.
That is my C suite.
Before you accept any external pressure to lean-in or get-ahead or stay home full time for that matter, ask yourself what YOUR heart wants. Feel free to respectfully reject the wide variety of advice on what you “should” do. This is your life. Your one and precious life. Know your own heart, and then have the courage to follow that.