Make Your Home Work Like Work
The big news in the workplace over the past couple of decades has
been the emergence of women as a significant force. We had the
opportunity to show what we can do, and we’ve done it. We’ve made the
workplace a different place, a better place. We are educated, motivated,
and street-smart. Women are taking the world by storm. Seventy-one percent
of women with kids work outside of the home. We have been incredibly
successful at work; however, we have not necessarily translated that
success to managing our households.
Process vs. Project
Here’s another significant change that has occurred in the workplace
over the past couple of decades: modern management strategy has moved
from a process-oriented workplace to a project-oriented workplace.
Work used to be built around a process. Big manufacturing companies
make the same thing — cars, steel girders, stuffed panda bears — and
people, in one way or another, were plugged into that process. They did
the same job day after day. At home, the “process” meant you lived in
the same house, in the same neighborhood, and with the same neighbors.
It meant you didn’t get divorced. Well, those days are gone forever. My
own work life has bounced me around like a pinball, and I’m now the
The rest of our lives follow the same checkered pattern as our
careers. We move around, we work remotely, we get divorced, we partner,
we often re-partner, and we create stepfamilies; all of these
situations come with unique challenges of their own.
Too Many Hats For Mom
For all of our skill and ambition and qualities, it still seems that
many Millennial women find themselves mired in the same routine that
their mothers and grandmothers established. Too many of them have not
changed the way they manage their households, and too many of them will
continue to see an increasing divergence between their sense of
accomplishment in the workplace and the same sense at home.
It doesn’t have to happen. A generation of women has conquered the
world of business in spite of having a small number of role models. We
did it with courage and perseverance, and we have become the mentors and
role models for the younger women who have followed us. But who are
Millennials to look to for our role models at home?
They don’t have to look any farther than themselves in their business lives.
Today, business strategy centers on goals rather than routines. Here
is how it works. Once you’ve identified a goal, you create a project
to meet that goal. Achieving a goal means figuring out a strategy. You
might need some experts for the team that aren’t from your company, so
you go out and bring them in for this project – you outsource.
Then, when the project is finished, you critique it, you improve the
rough edges, and you go on to something new—new projects, new teams, new
strategies, all connected to an overall master plan for the
organization, but each one with its challenges and rewards.
This new way of looking at business coincided directly with the
infusion of women into the workforce. Coincidence? Maybe not. Men
like hierarchies and pecking orders. Women like to get together and
work things out through negotiation and cooperation, though we can also
crack the whip when needed.
Why do we get bogged down at home, when we’re so good in the
workplace? Why does it all seem so routine? Maybe it’s because we’ve
bought into a lot of myths about home. For instance:
You can’t fire your family.
You can’t; albeit, you can divorce your husband. So, what does that
mean? That you’re locked in a rut, an endless process? It shouldn’t.
At home, you handle more personnel changes than the Talent Director of a
Fortune 500 company. Last year, your employee pool included a stubborn
two-year-old; this year, they have been replaced by an energetic and
inquiring three-year-old. That sulky sixteen-year-old you were close to
locking out of the house seems to have taken off of their own accord;
suddenly, your team has been augmented by an intelligent and responsible
seventeen-year-old, and you realize it’ll break your heart when they
leave the firm next year to head for college.
We hear a lot about all the different hats
women wear, all the different job descriptions we have at home:
accountant, buildings and grounds chief, chauffer, cleaning person,
comptroller, IT specialist, daycare worker, fashion consultant, guidance
counselor, judge, veterinarian, health care provider; I can go on. But
it’s all a little condescending, isn’t it? We don’t need to invent all
those different made-up titles to make us understand that being a mom is
a varied and challenging job.
Naturally, as CEO of the household, it’s our responsibility to make
sure everything gets done, either by delegating or by doing it
ourselves. It’s not making up a bunch of fake job descriptions that will
make the difference in building our self-esteem, in giving us a sense
of purpose, in creating a work environment at home that will just as
fulfilling as our work environment. It’s understanding the nature of
work and the nature of management, and learning how to identify, plan,
prioritize, and manage projects, the way we do at work.