When I was on maternity leave with my second child, I began to ponder the phrase “work-life balance.” A lot has been written on the subject, and in many cases the term is hotly debated.
Balancing a newborn in one hand, a cookie in the other — the near-perfect food for this mother — and my Nook in my third hand, I dove headlong into two juxtaposed reads on the subject of work and motherhood. A third hand you ask? Yes, because that is what’s required of mothers these days.
Twenty years ago, kids and marriage were far from my mind. Somewhere along the line, that all changed. Today, I’m married to the man I fell for in college and I’m mother to a rambunctious 7-year-old boy and a bubbly 7-month-old girl. My family brings me more joy than any one person possibly deserves. And I have a job that I love. But I am far from professing, “I have it all.”
Like many who choose children and a career outside the home, my husband and I have had to make some difficult decisions when it comes to how many hours we work, who we trust to care for our kids, husband-wife time, exercise, volunteering — the list goes on and on.
Reading about the paths other women have taken, their struggles and successes nurturing a family and career, made me question what is possible and impossible.
In this heavily researched book, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, especially in politics and executive positions. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career and her family. While not always easy, Sandberg essentially tells us it’s possible to have it all. And above all else, she encourages women to “sit at the table,” to “lean in,” to be assertive, and not let opportunities pass by.
She gave me a lot to think about. And I had to ask: Was I leaning in?
In this essay published in The Atlantic in 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter provides a candid look at the give-and-take of career and motherhood and the reasons why women can’t have it all. Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, eventually resigning her position to spend more time with her family, concluding that it was impossible for her to have it all.
How is it that two women who climbed the ranks to achieve such high-level positions could have such differing opinions?
I am torn between family and career every day. I could put in longer hours, get more involved in professional groups, and likely achieve more, faster. But that would mean missing out on the daily marvels of my children.
While on maternity leave, I cherished every precious moment I had with my daughter. And I loved every minute of it.
Those first few weeks back at work, I was a stressed-out mess of a mom, wife and employee. Between up-and-down nights with the baby, post-delivery hormones, and figuring out a schedule that worked for everyone, I was a wreck. But I soon found my groove and began to feel like myself again.
Luckily, I work for someone who cares about each person’s situation and their desire to succeed at work and at home. I came back on a reduced schedule that allows me one extra day at home to spend quality time with my baby, shuttle my son to and from school, and get at least partially caught up on never-ending to-dos.
In future posts, I’ll share with you some personal tips, go-to resources, and never-perfect approaches to making work and home, well, work.