I’m at my son’s cello lesson, thinking about this week’s Time magazine. Sheryl Sandberg’s on the cover.
I never used to write about women on my blog. I wrote for three national magazines about careers before I even acknowledged that I was a woman aside from saying
1. I got the column because I was a woman running tech companies. (Rare back then.)
2. I got a promotion because I leveraged the sexual harassment my boss dished out in order to climb the ladder (around him).
Other than that, I tried very hard to not mention women. I could see that women who had kids got very little respect at the office and I stayed away from them. I only hired men. Even after I had kids, I only worked with men.
Now I’ve downshifted, and I’m home with my kids. I tried to make it not a big deal that I downshifted. I kept saying that I was going to launch a new startup. But then I found myself literally scared to death of going back to 100-hour weeks.
I write that: 100-hour weeks, and I almost don’t believe it. Because it would mean that I was literally never with my kids. But it’s true.
One of the nannies I had during that period still sees my oldest son. She is one of those professional nannies—she always works for women with huge jobs, and she couldn’t stay with me after I cut back to 60 hours a week.
She and my older son are still very close. I was having ice cream with the two of them and she started talking about a family that had a bunny and the bunny was lonely and needed a friend, but they couldn’t just buy another bunny. You have to introduce the new bunny to the old bunny to see if they are friends.
So I said, “Did it work out?”
She said, “What? Don’t you remember? It was your house! The bunny was eating the carpet and right before we brought the second bunny, your bunny died.”
I don’t remember. I do remember that we had a five-bedroom house that I didn’t have time to furnish so we bought animals for each room: the bunny room, the cat room, the ferret room, etc. (You can see why I ended up with a farmer.)
What I am trying to tell you is that you really do not see your kids if you have a very big job.
So I’m sitting in a cello lesson taking notes on measure sixteen even though I don’t read music. And I’m terrified every time my son finishes a song ahead of schedule because it means we’re one day closer to having to make the eight-hour trip to cello lessons three days a week instead of two.
I can’t stop thinking about Time magazine. Sheryl Sandberg is such an incredibly aberrant example of women at work that I just don’t get how she’s on the cover. She is great. Smart. Driven. I get it. I am doing a life that she would hate. I thought I was a high performer, but Sheryl Sandberg has no time for people like me. I spent so many years working hard to get to the top, but the truth is that I’m not even close. I was never in the running. I am nothing like Sheryl Sandberg.
My friend sent a link to me about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Actually, it’s about Jacqueline Reses. Mayer runs products and services at Yahoo. Reses runs everything else. So the edict for no telecommuting came down at Yahoo signed by both of them. Reses lives in New York City with her husband, Matthew Apfel, who has a big job at CORE Media Group, and her three, school-aged kids. And she commutes to Yahoo’s offices in California. Sunday night she goes to California and Friday she flies home. No telecommuting for her.
Which drives home to me that the women at the very top all do not see their kids. We just don’t hear about it. Why would we? Why would they talk about about it? It doesn’t help their career and it doesn’t help their kids.
I can’t get angry about these women. I just need to remember that I am not close to being able to compete with them. The high performers in corporate life are so much more focused than everyone else in the workforce that it’s time we stopped selling a false bill of goods; almost no one can be so singularly focused to get to the top of anything. Including corporate America. Yet we keep talking to kids and each other like anyone can do it.
Most kids cannot have huge jobs. They will be the workplace equivalent of intramural basketball players. When they grow up, they will find work that is fine, just like it’s fine to play on a team with the kid across the hallway even though he misses too many lay-ups.
Sheryl Sandberg gives up her kids like movie stars give up food: she wants a great career more than anything else.
You know all the stuff people write about how really skinny women in magazines makes girls feel anxious and not worthy? Do you know how women lose weight for the Oscars? They want to have a great Hollywood career more than anything else. That’s what seeing Sheryl Sandberg on the cover of Time magazine does to me. Do you know what I want more than anything else? For people to think I’m doing well. In my career.
You can kill me now. Because I hate when I coach women who tell me they want the world to see them as a successful in their career. I tell them, “Well, you’re not doing all that well, because you made choices that did not get you a very good career. But you have other things.”
I tell people this so easily on a coaching call. And many women cry. I understand. Respect is always relative. It’s like money, there’s always someone who gets more. There’s always someone who makes the amount you have look like nothing.
Most women are past the idea that they measure themselves by money. But women are instead using respect as our measuring tool, which is just as dangerous. Because respect is relative, we don’t control it completely, and it doesn’t come along with choosing the job of raising kids.