4 – Working Moms

4 – Working Moms

Working Moms

The topic of Work-Life Balance has been discussed and debated in various business forums, from the Wall Street Journal to Business Week to on-line blogs. The topic almost always stirs up heated debate. For one thing, the phrase “Work-life balance” implies that work is not an enjoyable part of your life and that life is what happens when you are away from work. When the discussion moves to the balancing act performed by parents who work outside the home, it spurs a whole variety of opinions related to parenting and feminism. People line up on various sides and in the middle is a veritable minefield.

In this podcast, we’ll hear from successful women who have managed to find a balance of career and home. You will hear about their successes and failures but in the end it will leave you with a lot of food for thought.

Transcript

Hill: I realized that I am a role model to them not only as mother, which I expected. But as a female executive.

Devita: The balance between work/family life is probably a never ending question. And it might be the most difficult management challenge you have ever faced in your life.

Barry: Some thing is always going to give. You better choose as to what that something is going to be and don’t have regrets about it.

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

Today’s topic is “Working Moms – Can You Really Juggle Career and Family”.

The topic of Work-Life Balance has been discussed and debated in various business forums, from the Wall Street Journal to Business Week to on-line blogs. The topic almost always stirs up heated debate. For one thing, the phrase “Work-life balance” implies that work is not an enjoyable part of your life and that life is what happens when you are away from work. When the discussion moves to the balancing act performed by parents who work outside the home, it spurs a whole variety of opinions related to parenting and feminism. People line up on various sides and in the middle is a veritable minefield.

In this podcast, we’ll hear from successful women who have managed to find a balance of career and home. You will hear about their successes and failures but in the end it will leave you with a lot of food for thought.

We’ll start with a comment from Jean Hill, Executive Director of Infrastructure for the Retail Division at Morgan Stanley. The topic of working moms is often seen as a negative challenge that faces women – but from Hill’s perspective, the ability to choose may not be entirely bad.

Hill: But what is interesting, is women have a choice that men do not have. So if a man of age 40 decides to say, I am stopping work. And I am going to play Mr. Mom. Society looks at him and says, what is wrong? You couldn’t get a job? Or did you get fired? Or you’re wife walking all over you? And they are all derogatory comments. There is never a congratulations. Great going! Woman, CEO of a Fortune 100 company at age – same age, decides to drop out. It is congratulations, you are doing the right thing. I am envious. I am jealous. Interesting that women actually have that choice. And I think a lot of women are taking it, and I think it is because corporate America has not started to figure out at the middle manager level to really start to retain the women. And so the manifestation is seven or eight years later. But they are not helping them on the way up.

Kristen: Hill goes on to discuss her own balance. She states that there is flexibility that comes with seniority and that one of her biggest sources of pride is that her daughters not only see her as a role model as a mother but as a female executive as well.

Hill: I like there to be an answer. There isn’t with child rearing. So that is very tough for me to just deal with. The pack that I made with my kids basically very early on, is Mondays through Thursdays are for Mommy. It’s my career. It’s what I love doing. And Friday through Sunday I am theirs. And I might do e-mail early in the morning. But other than 9/11, I do not work weekends. And that I am there for them. When they were very young, and I did not have live in help, the baby sitter would drop Amanda off at my office at 6:00. Because the babysitter got off. And you know. I had a blanket in my office. And you know. She would sit and play. And then you know, fall asleep. And I would do you know, my work. Some years I would – you know. Now with telecommuting, I would work from at home. As I have gotten more senior, and you get a lot more comfortable, or you get more comfortable with your choices because you understand the costs and the risks of them. And I think early on in your career is, you don’t understand that costs and the risks. So you might not make the right intelligent decision. But there are days I will leave at 2:00 to go to a soccer game. Or to go to a swim meet. And you know. There are other times where I will tell them sorry. You know. I can’t do it. My girls have been in and out of my office constantly. So that they have seen what I do. And the thing that freaked me out the most was, last summer, we were talking. And I realized that I am a role model to them not only as mother, which I expected. But as a female executive. And that was the one that blew me away. Because I just didn’t see that. I just saw myself in their eyes as Mommy. Crazy as I am, it was just Mommy. And I realized that no. They saw me as the professional as well.

Kristen: Christine DeVita is President of The Wallace Foundation, one of the top 40 private foundations in the United States, with assets of more than $1.5 billion. She states that finding a balance between home and work is one of the most difficult challenges that women face. To face the challenge, she states that you need to have passion and support.

Devita: The balance between work/family life is probably a never ending question. And it might be the most difficult management challenge you have ever faced in your life. And I think there are probably some pre-conditions that have to be in place if you are going to be successful in managing it. First and foremost, you have to clearly want to . You cannot be ambivalent. The passion for your work has got to equal the passion for your children. And you have to really believe that having two passions does not diminish the other. And if you don’t, it just takes too much time and energy to do it. For me, — I also came into the professional world at a time when women were still trying to prove that they were men’s equal. And I think the world has changed there. But for me, as a young lawyer, there really wasn’t an option that I could step off – step out of the profession and come back five years later. So in choosing the profession, in the environment at which I was operating, I had no choice. I needed to do it if I wanted to do it. The second real I think condition for success is you need to have the right support. Both in terms of your partner, and in terms of the right resources available to get the help that you need. Without that kind of support, I think it is really, really hard. And I think you have to decide what you are going to give up. And in our case and my case, the two main things I spent my time on were my work and my family. And that meant that I gave up vacations without our kids. It meant I gave up going out to dinner with friends. Because if we were having dinner with friends, it was with kids. It meant I gave up caring whether the top of the refrigerator really was dust-free.

Kristen: In a candid moment, DeVita goes on to say that you have to also be prepared to deal with feelings of guilt. While the end result may be worth the sacrifices, there will undoubtedly be dark times where you question your choices…

Devita: In managing this work/family balance, the other thing I think you need to really recognize is that guilt sits forever on this shoulder. And it is always there. And there were times when my children were little that I was the only mom that worked. And the conversation was, why are you the only mom? And it just tears your heart out. But now, as the children grew, both of them now say, I am so glad that you did not stay home. They reach a point where they begin to appreciate what you do. They reach a point where they understand that you could have interests other than them. And if you are lucky, they are actually proud of what you have done. But there is a long period of time in there where that voices in your ear constantly. And you just have to find ways to deal with that.

Kristen: Subha Barry is Managing Director of Multicultural and Diversified Business Development for Merrill Lynch. In addition to being an Indian woman struggling to break through corporate America’s glass ceiling and a cancer survivor, Barry shares the reality that she still struggles to find the right balance between work and home.

Barry: I talked briefly about my health challenges but I will tell you that that leads me to talking to you about that balance between work and home which I don’t think that I quite found right away and that is something that I’m still working on. I still make a lot of mistakes but here’s how I handle it. On any given day I look at what is the priority that I need to focus on. Sometimes it’s my home, sometimes it’s my… my son is in a play this evening that means even if there was an important meeting at work, I’m at my son’s play. He’s 11 years old, he’s going to remember if mom didn’t turn up at the play and I want to be there. There … some times it’s work, okay and the family gives. So what I’ve decided is … some thing is always going to give. You better choose as to what that something is going to be and don’t have regrets about it. Don’t expect everything to be just so and just perfect.

Kristen: Finally, we’ll hear from Kate Jones, veteran of Proctor & Gamble and co-founder of Provisor Marketing, a marketing agency specializing in new business development. Jones states that even in t he best situations where both partners are working and contributing at home, the reality is that women and men just seem to be wired differently…

Jones: I will constantly have women ask me, How do you balance it? We will get in those conversations. I had never ever had a man ask about that. I don’t think even in today’s environment that men think about it as much as women do. That’s from just my corporate experience. I know in my own personal experience my husband doesn’t think about nearly the same amount of things that I do. I don’t know how much of that is just–part of it is just gender based. It is in your DNA. When I think about the week, I have to think about the implication of every single thing that happens in their lives. I think about all the things that are on the calendar. My husband simply isn’t wired that way. He doesn’t think about what is going on Friday and whether or not you have to be prepared for your 10-year-old to go to a birthday party, and therefore they have to be out of their activity in time to go, and they have to have a present ready to walk in the door. You have to do the RSVP. None of that crosses his mind, but I never ask him to do that either. I just do that, and that’s one of those things sometimes it is easier to do it yourself than explain to someone else who simply doesn’t quite get it. He is not wired that way. I think those gender differences still exist.

Kristen: Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from any of our featured speakers or want to hear more comments on the topic of Working Moms, please check the themes section of our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

And remember, if it is a business topic of interest, eClips will bring you “Sound Advice”…


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