“I don’t know how you do it.”
I get this all.the.time. It seems like a compliment, right? That I’m making this work-life integration thing happen. False. For me, it’s a frequent reminder that the barriers are still so high for working moms and that we are far from where we need to be. Because the truth is, I’m exhausted and anxious that I’m dropping the ball somewhere.
“We still ask women to work like they don’t have kids and parent like they don’t work.”
I’m tired of living in fear. Fear that I’m not pulling my weight at work as much as my male and childless colleagues fear that my son feels less loved because I’m the absentee parent who needs a sitter to take him to soccer practice, fears that I’m losing precious time with aging family members, fear that infrequent face to face time will deteriorate friendships. Fear that I’m just never enough.
As an executive female in tech, mom of two kids under six, COO of our household, commuter, and athlete, every minute of my day is critical, and that’s just from an operational standpoint. Couple the emotional and mental labor (worrying about childcare, scheduled activities, homework, birthday parties, finding quality time to spend with your partner) with managing people at work and you’re left with zero time for yourself.
I recently saw this viral comic on Twitter that couldn’t feel more spot on.
How are women expected to get into and more importantly, stay, in leadership roles when there are so many daily struggles that continue to pose barriers?
Why do we define success as more? More responsibility, bigger teams, how much we can cram in a day? It’s almost become a bragging right (oh, and I’m guilty of it too). We are all headed for burnout if we haven’t already hit it.
The last thing I want to do is set the example for younger women that having it all is easily doable. The truth is you need community as your support system – from colleagues who understand, to partners, relatives, friends and neighbors, because it takes a village. I’m fortunate to have a partner who carries his share of the load, a sitter, and family nearby, and yet, at the same time, I’m still not able to do it all. I’ve missed school events like “Bring your parent to school day” or forgot about pajama day and accidentally single my children out in their everyday clothes. Whoops.
I don’t have a magic wand to change things overnight. However, in order to have any chance of change, I believe we need a two-pronged approach.
Company culture must become more inclusive
I’ve been lucky to have worked for people and companies who hold the value of “outcomes over outputs”. This is generally applied to the work you are doing. But I’ve also applied it to face-time in the office. While it would be challenging for a leader to be exclusively remote, I believe it’s possible to achieve outcomes with flexible schedules including work from home days. I’m also selfishly happy to gain back 3 hours in my day, not to mention have the ability to attend school events and focus on heads down work that open office environments make a bit tough. In turn, my company gets an employee who continues to be fulfilled by her work and is invigorated to come into the office despite a long commute.
When I started my search for a new role at the end of 2019, an inclusive culture with people I’d kill to work with was in my top criteria. I was thrilled to find Electric and more importantly, the people with whom I couldn’t wait to work.
Is Electric’s culture 100% inclusive of parents? No, but is any company’s? With anything in life, you get out what you put in. I saw this as an opportunity to build on our 5-star culture that is already supportive and inclusive of who each individual is.
Apply some basic PM and leadership principles into our daily lives to ease the burden
Naturally, I have to bring in my Product Management lens and apply that to life.
- Get organized: Make sure you have a backlog for everything in your life and that it’s prioritized based on urgency and effort.
- Don’t compare yourself to others: Just like your individual team’s velocity is unique to that team and they want to improve against themselves, that’s how we need to think about ourselves.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and delegate: As PMs, we are privileged to lean on and work with a team to accomplish our goals. Do the same in your personal life. This was a revelation for me as I had a hard time delegating.
- Quality > quantity: It’s not about the number of features you build but the impact you have with your products. Whether it’s work or time spent with kids, more isn’t always best. The hours you spend at your desk is not correlated with performance. Similarly, the number of hours you spend with your kids does not necessarily correlate to happier and healthier kids and parents.
- Progress not perfection: If it’s 80%, ship it. Don’t get paralyzed because you’re striving for something to be perfect. Celebrate that you took the first step.
- Place the bets: We often experiment with our products which could result in total failure and that’s okay. Be courageous. Don’t be afraid to set the standard.
- Be kind to yourself: Do your best. We’re only human. We won’t always get it right and it doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Some days are just going to suck. What’s important is to have a community that can support you at home and at work.
I’m focused on just trying to do my best and encouraging others to do the same.
This post was written by Tara Goldman and originated on Women 2.0.