Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel like you are failing at everything?
My husband and I tend to be good partners. He begins work around 9 am and often has client events in the evening. I work east coast hours starting around 6 am and usually wrap up 4 pm or so. My husband handles getting the kids ready in the morning and dropping our daughter off at school and I usually pick up and handle after school activities and dinners.
When one of us is traveling for work the other has to pick up double shifts in the kid care department. This week I was in Chicago and returned very late in the evening. My husband had an early meeting the next day, which meant that I had to something I typically don’t do and take my daughter to school in the morning after being gone for several days.
What. An. Experience.
First, I got lots of stares from skeptical looking parents who wondered who I was and where I had been in the mornings over the first weeks of schools. As they relaxed with their lattes while sitting on benches chatting, I frantically ran my daughter toting a backpack and lunch box in one hand in whilst heading off a brewing crisis via email with my iPhone in my other hand.
I tried to do a quick kiss goodbye and run, buy my kiddo was not having it. She clutched onto my arm for dear life. Her friends approached her and asked her to go on the swing but she just shook her head and kept on clutching. I tried to casually wriggle out and head for the exit a few times, but she just started crying.
When all the other little kids lined up to go into their classroom and their parents kissed them goodbye, my daughter just stood there crying and holding my arm. I started to get frustrated, but then it hit me “She’s not a baby anymore, but she is only four.” Finally, her teacher got her and gave me the eye contact encouragement form of “make a run for it” as I walked away I heard her crying.
She’s been in daycare or preschool since she was 18 months old and I know those cries are short-lived, but I also know my daughter misses me. I was gone all week.
Seeing all the other parents relaxing and spending 20-30 minutes there in the morning made it clear to me that she may very well feel that she is getting the short end of the stick in the mom department.
Even though our family is very blessed to have a schedule where I get to pick her up in the afternoon every day and take her on great adventures while many parents are still working away, I still feel like I’m not giving her 100%. And how can I be? I am a full-time working mom -my kids need 100% and my job needs 100%, not to mention my family, friends and poor husband. While I was traveling this week I also missed my little sister’s birthday. Just straight up forgot about it.
Earlier in the week, I was out of town visiting a large consulting firm. A firm that provides advice to consumer brands including stroller manufacturers, toy companies, etc. As I looked around the room at over 350 partners, I noticed that less than 5% were women. Intrigued, I started asking how that had come to be. One woman told me that all of the incoming classes are 50% women 50% men, but most women drop out before they get to the partner level because of the demands of traveling four days every week and the stress that goes into trying to balance that lifestyle with having a family. Someone else noted that many CEO’s and management teams in the US are still predominately male and that men still in some ways prefer to deal with other men.
Living in a country that touts its diversity, this was a very black and white wake up call. How can men be making decisions about how to improve, market and create products that are mostly being purchased and used by women? How can such a homogenous perspective be truly evolutionary when it comes to thinking about the future of products and services?
Do I trust a male consultant who travels 4 days a week to decide how to revamp my coffee pot or what the snack tray on my children’s stroller should look like? Absolutely not! I thought to myself for the millionth time that this status quo really needs to be disrupted. That maybe I can help do that and show that it’s not necessary to travel every week and forgo having a family for a woman’s critical unique insights and perspectives to be valued.
On the return flight, I started writing a mission statement in my head. I thought maybe I can do this and evolve this industry, change the way people think and be a driver of businesses to push women’s voices forward, but then I dropped my daughter off at school today and my almost 5-year old cried for her Mom.
Being a working mom is critical for some mothers. Some moms work for financial reasons and others because they simply love what they do. But one thing’s for sure, in the world we currently live it, it is nearly impossible to succeed at everything. Maybe for now it means being really present with our kids when we are not traveling or working, but more often than that it means making the tough choices. It means shelving that big idea and/or having to forgo being a “recess volunteer parent”.
I will continue to fight every day to balance this impossible juggling act and remind myself every day that, at certain times, changing our children’s world is equally as important as changing the whole wide world.