Last week I traveled to a senior leadership conference for work for my new position. It was extremely interesting to get to meet new people, learn new processes, talk about work-related issues with knowledgeable people and eat too much food. Not to mention it was nice being recognized as “Jean the worker” instead of “Jean the Mommy.” (Now, of course, there was the always present Mommy guilt of being away, but that is just a given!).
At one point in the conference, there was a panel discussion section, where members of the audience could ask questions. Of course, there were the kiss-up questions and the where do we go from here questions. And there I sat, really wanting to know how these people balance their workloads with family time. I mean, they are much more important than me and have been at this much longer than I have, they should have some great advice. Plus, I am always interested to hear other opinions and insights.
So, with great courage (because all I could think of was “man, this new girl really doesn’t care about work, she is more concerned with her family. Why did we hire her?”) I asked this:
“With Blackberrys, laptops, heavy workloads and travel, how do you balance your work and family lives?”
Most responses I received were similar – find some “me” time, shut the Blackberry off, make sure to set a date night with your wife/spouse. All stuff we hear all of the time. But one comment I found extremely interesting. One panelist actually said to look at your boss and his time commitments. Do you want to be him/her? The panelist said that at some point you just have to make a choice, whether you want to go further with your career (thus, becoming consumed with it) or are you content with your position, both professionally and personally.
At first, I stubbornly thought “why can’t I have it all?” And then I realized, he made a lot of sense. We (aka working moms) make choices every day about our work/life balance. Do we attend this networking function to meet the “right” people or head home to read to our kids for an extra hour? Should we volunteer for that special project, knowing that we will have to work late at the office for a few weeks? Do I miss a soccer practice to finish up some required documentation?
Maybe I won’t be VP by 33. But I will be “World’s Coolest Mommy” for tonight (well, at least until I tell them to go to bed!). And I am happy with that choice.
P.S. I received great feedback from other moms at the conference for asking that question. So a little pat on the back for me.