A Successful Family and a Successful Career

I’ve been blogging about the book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, chapter by chapter. This week, I have chosen to combine my thoughts on three interrelated chapters.In Chapter 7, Sandberg speaks to the idea of women pushing opportunities aside, long before they are actually planning to leave the workplace. In particular, she speaks to the need women feel to make trade-offs between family and career long before they have children. The subsequent two chapters address issues such as sharing responsibility with your partner and making good choices to balance work with family.

What intrigues me is why women or anyone feel the need to make tradeoffs before becoming a parent. What is it about the modern workplace that leads individuals to believe they can’t be a good parent and hold a job outside the home? Time constraint might be considered a factor. If you work 50 – 60 hours a week, the thought of adding a munchkin that needs to be fed and changed every few hours can be overwhelming. We never have enough time to accomplish all the things we should or, do we?

Having a child certainly adds stress and work to one’s life. But consider that the real problem might be that we don’t know how or aren’t willing to say ‘no’ to others.  If we’ve been ineffective over the years at meaningfully managing our lives, we’ll feel even more challenged when we take on more responsibility.  Here are a few of my thoughts on why we don’t just say ‘no’:

Pressure – We get pressure from friends, colleagues and family members.  Whether it’s attending a neighborhood event, participating on the holiday planning committee or attending your second cousin’s-once removed birthday party, we feel guilt when we can’t accommodate everyone’s wishes.  When my son was young I was asked to contribute to a school rummage sale.  When I pulled out my check book, one of the mothers responded, “I guess if it’s not that important to you, you can just write a check.”  I replied that the event wasn’t that important and she could take the check or nothing.  She snatched the check up like a pair of shoes on sale at Nordstrom’s and my son didn’t care that my contribution was a check. 

Cost – When I suggest to professionals that they get someone to clean their house, mow their lawn or take on other responsibilities, they tell me they simply can’t afford to pay someone to handle these chores. I encourage these individuals to look at ‘outsourcing’ as a means to invest in themselves and their careers. If they really focus on their careers and well-being during this added time, they’ll soon discover that their career growth will more than offset the costs in a few years. When cost really is an issue, get creative and barter with friends. Hate to clean your bathroom but for some odd reason your best friend doesn’t mind cleaning? Tell her you will pre-cook her 5 meals for the week – a win/win situation for both.

I can do it better myself – Beware of this trap! We may take on tasks that others should do because it’s simpler than taking the time to set expectations. Taking on responsibilities better performed by others hurts us as managers and our employees who miss an opportunity for coaching and growth. We also often, rework someone else’s project. I am infamous for reorganizing the grocery cart when food shopping with my better half. No one will complete an assignment the same way you will. Unless the work product is really poor, accept it and move on, time is too precious to waste.

If women are really scaling back on opportunities because they’re afraid they cannot handle the future load, let’s work with them now to make good choices that allow for a balanced life.

What good choices have you made that have helped you excel in your career?

Speak loudly, step boldly!

Image courtesy of Momgoodz.comSeptember 5th, 2013 3:57pm Sheryl Sandberg lean in Beth Bierbower work life balance