Ladies, we need to be nicer to each other — and to ourselves. There is a perpetuating storm of controversy around high-powered women asserting that we all have to make a decision between success at home and at the office. The debate has politely raged for some time now. However, when PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, commented that women couldn’t have it all, that they can only pretend to have it all, I knew it was time to weigh in.
Nooyi explained that it’s impossible to be everything to everyone at all times, so it’s important to enlist those around you to assume tasks you cannot possibly complete.
My question is, why does co-opting help mean you’re not having it all? And, why is recruiting assistance such a mark of failure? Haven’t societies throughout time proven that the strength of the community was responsible for the health and well being of its members?
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, postured on the same issue in Forbes with a follow-up interview on The Today Show. During the interview, Matt Lauer was skewered for asking (or for how he asked) Ms. Barra to discuss the matter. Ms. Barra’s argument was that she can do both jobs well – leading one of the largest companies in America and being a good mom – and I applaud her assertion.
I will start by stating that I am pro-choice: each woman needs to choose for herself whether she will work in or out of the home, or choose to have children or not – and those choices need to be her own.[contextly_sidebar id=”LpANVSKM6u3H31zkK78bILNgdv0onIaE”]I look at my friends who dedicate themselves to their children and families full time and believe that they feel shortcomings as well. They aren’t perfect mothers; they still rely on a “team” of some sort for carpools, housekeeping, or PTA duties. So, if I choose to go to work (and let me be clear, I have some choice, but financially must go to work each day), are my moments of guilt any larger than theirs?
I don’t think so. It goes both ways. They may feel inadequacies that they are not contributing to family finances, while I am torn by not always being the first mom on the list to volunteer in the classroom. However, I think everyone can agree that the measurement of motherhood is not solely based on perfect attendance at every event.
Paid time off is provided, so use it wisely. Don’t ever miss the big things, but don’t sweat the small stuff. For me, it was always important to be present by participating, but not necessarily by attending. Know about upcoming events; donate if you can’t “do”; participate with your child by asking questions and engaging in preparations. Ask friends who do attend to take pictures of your child to share with you and then be very focused on the debrief when your child runs through every detail at home. I don’t feel guilt because even though I wasn’t there, I am involved – their words and excitement put me there in the moment.
The same is true for my children. I allow them to be involved in my work. They have come to the office, met the players, and can visualize the co-workers with whom I regularly meet and travel. It’s just too exhausting to keep those two worlds completely separate. I also believe I am setting a good example for my daughter of how to balance these two priorities.
Are there sacrifices? Of course. But I don’t think I have more regret than my peers who stay at home. We live in an amazing time. Technology can help so much. You can Skype to see your kids and say goodnight; text back and forth during the day; work remotely if your job allows; telecommute to attend the ‘don’t miss’ events.
When I mentor young women prior to or just after they enter motherhood, I try to remind them that the balance is really work, children and self. That last bit, the most crucial part, always seems to fall to the wayside. Women can do it all – they just may need to do it at 90%, and they need to allow themselves the time to recharge.
How will my kids judge me? I hope they will say I was a good mom. I hope they will remember that I was there for most things and present when I was there – even if I checked my cell phone. I think they will remember that I put food on the table, even if it was prepared in someone else’s kitchen. And hopefully their worst criticism will be that I made them clean their rooms.
About Barbara Palmer: Barbara joined CallFire as Chief Revenue Officer in 2014. In this role, Barbara partners with the executive team to expand the customer base, develop strategic partnerships, lead business development and marketing opportunities, and revolutionize the product to meet market demand.
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