Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Washington Post Column: Maternal wall or mental gap?

In my late twenties, I asked my boyfriend how he thought having a family might work. Our standard weekday ended with dinner at 9pm, after 12+ hours at the office.

"I know just how it will work," my boyfriend gamely replied. He grabbed a pad and sketched out our future. He drew stick figures of himself, me and two hypothetical children. In the center of his diagram, he penciled in Mary, our housekeeper, who came in a few hours a week to save us from dust bunnies. "We'll do just what we do now," my boyfriend told me, "and Mary will take care of us." I laughed. I was no expert on running a family, but I had a feeling it was going to take more effort.

To keep reading our Washington Post "On Leadership" column, click here

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Speaking of Freedom...Do We Want it All?

After July 4th, I was doing some thinking about freedom. I am filled with gratitude and awe when I think about what was sacrificed to allow me to be sitting here at Starbucks, wearing what I want to wear, writing what I want to write, with no fear of consequence (except maybe an angry reader).

But along with that gratitude, I also feel overwhelmed. I have many, in fact, that it's not exactly clear what do to next.   I actually feel guilty sometimes if I think I am not constantly maximizing the opportunities that have been presented to me. And sometimes, dare I say, I wish I didn't have so many choices.

Now, before that comment annoys you, let's talk a bit about psychology. In his Ted Talk
, Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

He claims "with so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all." And, "even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from." The imagined alternative reduces the satisfaction we have with the option we chose.

Wow. He couldn't have said it better. I have chosen to start my own business, working from home so I can be with my kids when I want to and set my own schedule.

But sometimes I think, gosh, would I be happier if I had chosen... be a stay at home mom and not have to worry about the business... work part-time at a company where I can leave my work at work... work full-time at a company so I can be told what's expected of me... have stayed where I was before where I would surely be a Partner by now...
...or really just about any other option that has been placed before me?

And to make it worse, we women don't do a really good job of supporting each others' choices, do we? It's almost as if to validate our own choices we have to believe that the choices others make that are different than ours are bad.

My husband's stepmother is in town. She made a comment the other day that she had been observing young women in the city, and she felt a bit sorry for them. They seemed so...busy. And I thought, yes, we ARE busy, but isn't that what we wanted?

I would never want to live in a society where my choices are made for me. I am eternally grateful and recognize how lucky I am to be able to be doing what I am now. But, the management of the choices can be exhausting, and I believe we need to see it for what it is - too many available choices can lead to dissatisfaction in the choices we've made.

We need to stop worrying about the choices we could have made, enjoy and celebrate the ones we have made – while being equally happy for our friends who make decisions different from our own. 

Let freedom ring!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Today Show's Chatzky: Earning Power Shifts the Status Quo

Today, says the Shriver Report, a 2009 study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, only one of five families with children at home have dads who work and moms who stay home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25.9% of wives in 2007 were earning more than their husbands in households where both spouses work. That's up from 17.8% two decades ago. Since December 2007, men have accounted for three-quarters of all job losses.

When earning more money shifts the status quo at home, learning new ways to cope with the money/gender gap can help.

To continue reading Chatzky's take on Getting to 50/50, click

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What to wear to work? How much freedom do we really have - check out our new Washington Post "On Leadership" column

"Vanilla. Wear nothing that makes anyone think twice." That was the advice a successful man gave me as I started my career.

I bristled at this idea but grudgingly tried to apply it. Like many young women, I was happy to be free of male fashion constraints (white shirt, dark suit) and man-on-man abuse for non-conformity ("Lavender-striped tie? Where'd you get that, your mother?").

But sartorial liberty has its risks. How polished should a woman look to convey competence? The standards vary widely. In the military, male commanders sport form-fitting outfits but female generals seem to tailor their uniforms only in the movies. What about open-toed shoes? Ruffles? Bold jewelry? Necklines? The choices - and perils - are boundless.

For the full article, please go to:
On Leadership