Working moms. If you ask Anne-Marie Slaughter, that's not really a thing any more. The thing is working parents. And how we, as a society, can do a better job in supporting them. Supporting us.
This week, I had the pleasure of hearing Anne-Marie speak about her new book, Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work and Family, and engage in an informative and inspiring Q&A at Random House in New York. As a working mom -- hold on, make that "working parent" -- of five children ten and under, I feel the "struggle with the juggle" a lot. It's not easy to manage our full house and a full-time job and I've come to believe that work-life balance is a myth. Some days I rock it at home; others I rock it at work. Nary do the two coincide.
Thankfully, with the words and wisdom of Anne-Marie fresh in my mind, I have hope. Hope that our society, our employers and each of us can "lean in" to a new philosophy as it relates to working and parenting. As she so eloquently put it, "if family comes first, that doesn't mean that work comes second. It means that life comes together." Amen!
There were several soundbites from my hour with Anne-Marie that stand out and will motivate me to keep on keepin' on - at work, home and everywhere in-between:
Make room for care. Whether it's childcare, elderly care or simply taking care of yourself, we need to do a better job of allowing the women - and men - in our workforce to care for their families. As Anne-Marie put it, this is not a women's problem, "it's a problem of a workplace that hasn't adapted to its workforce." I am fortunate to work for a business (and a boss) that recognizes this and allows some flexibility but the majority of working women aren't so lucky... which is really a shame - for them and their employers. Research supports (and I can personally attest) that when businesses allow employees to care for their loved ones, those employees are more industrious and more loyal. Put another way, it's good business to allow time to care.
Interval training. I've already talked to my husband, colleagues and morning running group about this. It's brilliant. The notion is that interval training is essential for professional athletes. If they are "hard core" all the time, they will risk injury and burnout whereas if they take a break and mix things up now and then, they are better primed for peak performance. Sound familiar? The same is true in the work place; we can't be hardcore ALL the time. There is an ebb and flow - in our careers and in our families. We can't have it all - at once. That's the key. Timing. We may not have it "all" today or tomorrow but, if you look long-term, maybe, just maybe we can. Especially if you allow yourself some downtime to regroup, reconnect and remind yourself of what matters most... you probably won't find it in your office.
Focus on what absolutely needs to get done. Simple truths are always the most powerful and this is one of them. We all have a to-do list a mile long and we could all stay at work an extra hour to clear through email. But why? Because it's there? Does it really matter? Is it not more important to make it home in time to read a bedtime story? Anne-Marie would argue that it is. And I'm with her. 100%. I'm also guilty as charged, desperately trying to tick off an endless to-do list without always having a clear sense of priorities. Priorities crystallize the essentials while moving the "nice to have" items down that list. At work, it may mean that the bottom third of my email won't get addressed today. At home, it may mean that the hand-me-downs will sit in the hallway another day. So what! As long as I'm maintaining my key relationships at the office and getting dinner on the table at home, the rest is gravy. Although, there may not be gravy with dinner because there's a good chance I forgot to make it! And that's ok too. After all, gravy is a nice to have, not a need to have.