Opinion

OPINIONATED STORYTELLING

Building Resilience

I wake up with a body that hurts everywhere, like a truck has run me over. Yesterday was a day of pain, a day of (half) inactivity (after all the house and kids, not to mention your work, still need running), a day when I still had to figure how to get my son to school and back, when I still had to send him to a play date so I could get some middle of the afternoon unexpected rest.

As we were growing up my mom used to say: 'Moms can never get sick.' At that time I thought she meant moms needed to be present (like, all the time!). Little did I know she mostly meant she didn't feel entitled.

I read two really annoying (because they rang a bell) articles last week. They hit me so hard that it is taking a week for me to recover and talk about them. Placed in very different publications - Harvard Business Review and Huffington Post - they surprisingly discussed the same harsh reality for women: the fact that so much of the household and kids logistics fall on women's laps, like they are (forever) destined (expected) to take on that role. The role of the 'default parent', 'house chores master', 'kids appointments/logistics/school meetings actor' and so it goes. I am not trying to say men (once now and then) will not do these things. What I am trying to say (what the articles discussed overall) was that men are the back-up plan (when some of that doesn't fall on someone else's lap, name grandparents/nanny/help/other moms). With a few exceptions, to be fair, the 'default parent' can be a guy. Yes, I personally know 1, or 2.

Going back some 20 years my dad used to say: 'You think you are going to be able to be a top executive and still fully take care of your house and kids on your own, but you won't.' I didn't get a bit of what he said back then, I thought in my mind: of course I will! Little did I know most women are stamped with the 'call of duty' of the default parent, and unless they have a lot of help from others, a high-achieving position is unattainable (can still vividly remember leaving countless meetings with the C-suite to pick up my son from day care).

The places we think we are going to get, the job ladders we know we are capable of climbing, the pay check we know we so deserve, for a lot of the smart women I know, start to become a distant reality once we understand and value the family we are trying to build. In my case, I started to not like the person I had become when I was trying to do it all. The choices were really hard but I could not imagine being late to pick up my baby when that 'important meeting' seemed to be getting nowhere (or could have been an early discussion next morning). I became impatient when people around me at work were not as productive as I thought they could be, when their coffee breaks seemed to take forever (when I didn't have that forever to get a response to that email). In hindsight I know I was the one with the tight schedule, trying to squeeze all that made me think I was worth the professional and personal arenas.

Look Out Cronwall

I haven't necessarily opted out of the market with a rational list of pros and cons. But I understood the market didn't want to make space for the flexible time I needed to have for the family I also wanted. Still today, I see the eyes and expression of HR when you ask about the hours and flexibility a position you were invited to discuss offers. It is not a kind look. Maybe in time this will change. Maybe in time companies will understand how productive, master of time management and logistics, no time for bullshit women with child responsibility are. Maybe in time, the unexpected afternoon rest will not be seen as laziness but as a well deserved award (after all someone needs to be present for that sick kid at home the next day).

 

You can read the Harvard Business article 'Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women' here. And the Huffington Post article 'The Default Parent' here.