I was honored to attend the women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power" hosted by Arianna Huffington at her lovely home in New York. Surrounded by some of the most powerful women in America, the events of the day revolved around how we define success and how to take better care of ourselves to live longer and healthier lives.
We listened to an all-day marathon of star-studded panels of women and men who shared their personal stories about how they are trying to achieve balance. All of the attendees had at least one advantage: They do not have to worry about food, shelter or clothing. Yet, many of the speakers were still searching for balance. When Katie Couric admitted that she did not have 20 minutes in her day to meditate, I realized that money does not buy a person more time. Fame and fortune is sometimes a barrier to achieving balance. The stress that comes with making more money and having more power takes a toll on your body, mind and soul.
A long time ago, I tried to create a narrative for my life that was supposed to go like this: I was going to work very, very hard at Goldman Sachs, start my own business and retire by age 30, get married and have children. My plan, however, did not work out. At Goldman, I worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 7 weeks in a row without a day off. Before cell phones or personal computers were available, you had to be in the office at your desk crunching numbers as long as you were needed. Instead of going to business school after my two-year analyst job, I started my own business. After three very stressful years, I could not find a buyer for my company and ultimately liquidated the assets of the business.
I returned to Wall Street to work for the treasurer of Bankers Trust. A year later, I got married and had a baby. My husband, who was an intern in New York, matched to do his residency in New Orleans. If our family was going to stay together, I had to quit my great job and find work in a town that had no experience with a woman like me. When I went to work in New Orleans, I was miserable leaving my daughter in the care of strangers. Torn between traveling for work and staying at home, I had no choice but to go to work. My husband did not make enough money as a resident to pay the bills.
After seven years of marriage, my husband finally made enough money to support his family. My job required excessive travel and I could not control my hours. I had to be honest with myself: When I looked in the mirror, I knew that I wanted to stay home and be with my two children. I was fortunate that I had a choice. I understand why the majority of women lament that this is a problem for the 1% and not the rest of us. Not many women get to make the choice to stay at home today with 60% of all women working outside of the home.
For most women, the conversation about money is real. While the necessity to work is genuine for most women, we must not criticize other women who choose to work outside of the home even when financial reasons are not the motivator. Some women, including my own mother prefer to work outside of the home.
I decided a long time ago that my metric for success would be defined as raising intelligent children to become self-sufficient adults. I felt from the day my daughter was born that I was best-suited for this job. Sometimes, I don't think I will ever be done parenting, however, my time commitment has decreased. Now, I have some extra time to embark upon my own third chapter. Still, I have a hard time meditating or doing yoga every day. Finding the balance every day is easier said than done.
What is your metric for success? What are the goals for your life? Each woman and man should answer these questions based on their own narrative.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.