The advice I’d give my younger self?
Don’t beat yourself up for not being Superwoman. You can’t do everything all of the time. If you have bought into the myth, you are going to feel torn in a hundred directions and feel guilty about not being mentally or physically present for any of the things you are doing.
Does that mean I’d advise my younger self to choose between having a career, a husband (for a while), kids and friends? No way. I would advise myself to apply the same strategic priority list I do at work to my personal life and to “check the guilt at the door.”
For me, the constant feeling of being torn between the people who mean so much to me and the career that means so much to me was overwhelming. I never felt I was “in the moment”—my mind was always in the place I wasn’t. I felt guilty about everything, and it was palpable. I dragged it around.
It began when I got a chance, as a young professional woman, to go through the global credit training program at Chase Bank to become one of their first female executives in the banking system worldwide. Did I have to work longer hours than my male counterparts? Yes. Did I have to be more prepared? Yes. Did I want to prove I was an equal? Yes. Was I thrilled to do this? YES!
But, how could I explain this to my husband, my friends and later to my kids? Long days, long nights, and long weekends of work…you know this syndrome. I’ll admit, there were even nights I slept at the bank because I worked too late to leave.
And it continued.
When I had kids, I was the only “working mom”” in our pristine little suburban community. When I was the one assigned to bake cupcakes, I was “outted” when the perfect class-mom fished the empty Entenmanns’s box out of the garbage. Who knew that my personal touch of sprinkles wouldn’t convince everyone that these were homemade?
By the way, revenge changed my “strategic” priorities. Two weeks later, I stayed up until 2AM baking rainbow colored cupcakes in ice cream cones and broke two mixers perfecting the buttercream frosting from scratch! [There is a disclaimer—this was before we really knew that food dyes were killers. I figured I’d earn extra points in “cool mom heaven” if I made fuchsia and turquoise frosting…na, na, na, na, na…to perky, perfect class mom!])
Work-life balance? Quality alone time usually involved a bathroom. Speaking of bathrooms, while at Chase (yes, finally an executive), and a commuter, I held morning meetings for my female colleagues in the ladies’ room as I put on make-up at 7:30a.m. We women multi-task well!
So, younger self, listen up. Life would have been easier on you if you consciously made a list of the really important things in your life. You know, just like we do at work. Become the CEO of your life. Don’t rank your list; just make sure that you have the “Top 5” or “Top 10” important things.
If kids, husband, career, family, friends, food, exercise are in the top 10, keep them there. Remember, it’s your list. If fighting off dust bunnies is not on the list, but you are tired of convincing your partner that they are just soft sculpture, then outsource.
Put your list to the test. Ask yourself, “Does it matter profoundly?” If the answer is “no”, it’s time to outsource those roles: cleaning services, dog walkers, personal shoppers, (cupcake designers). Think “easy”, when you can. “Easy” hair, nails, clothes, food – whatever frees up that extra two hours each week. Two hours – think of that?
The next step is to share your list with your loved ones (if they are on the list). Illicit their support. Be honest with all the tugging at your heart and the anvil of guilt you are dragging around. Superwoman didn’t juggle all of the balls at once—if she did even she would start to drop some.
When do you need to think about this? When a friend calls you distraught and needs talk because her boyfriend has just dumped her, naturally, you show up for a drink and lend support and love. You hope she doesn’t notice your Blackberry in your lap as you try to correspond with your boss who needs answers “now.” If this is the case, then it’s time. It’s time to be present, time to outsource, and time to do your best with what and who matter to you most.
Superwoman is overrated. I don’t know about you but, outside of the gym, I’d never be caught dead in spandex—what’s that about?