Balance

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has been making her way around the television news shows - talking about how women need to "lean in" (or I might say "not shy away from") leadership and career.  Ted and I were watching her on 60 minutes last night (perhaps an old segment...it was on our tivo).  She said that women often don't go for leadership positions or promotions at work because they want to be able to have a family and they don't want their career to get in the way.  She was saying this as if it were somehow negative.  I think it is a choice that many women make - to keep their life in balance - because not all of us think that "having it all" means the same thing.  And, the truth is, I really like what I have seen of Ms. Sandberg.  She is smart and articulate and I would like to see more women like her at the helm of successful businesses - and I get what she is saying - that we women should fight for ourselves!  That most men would not just lean back and not go for the promotion or the leadership role so that they could spend more time with their families.  But I would say - maybe they should, if that is what they want. 

"Having it all" sometimes means having no balance and I don't think that is gender specific.  "Having it all" can feel overwhelming and more like having many medium sized pieces of all there is to have.  And, as she said, most women end up feeling guilty on some level for the choices that they make - spending too much time at work or not working at all or working so hard that they feel that it kept them from having a family.  I don't really mean to criticize Ms. Sandberg, because on the whole, I like what she has to say.  But, it did start me thinking about balance.

During the nine months that Max was alive, I guess you could say that I "had it all".  I had the job that I went to graduate school for - one that made me very happy, that I felt very passionately about, that I was paid well for, that I think I was pretty good at.  I had married the man of my dreams - the one that I never thought I would meet, that I still can't believe chose ME to spend his life with, that is my perfect partner - it took me a long time to find him - I am so grateful for him every day.  And, of course, we had Maxie - perfect...healthy, happy, sweet, easy, a perfect love in all ways - In fact, the most profound love of my life.  And, still I felt guilty all of the time.  I felt guilty that I wanted to go home every night and be with my baby so much more than I wanted to go to important networking events or fundraisers.  I felt guiltier that I often went to those things and didn't come home to my baby.  This is how all working moms feel, I am sure.  It's ok though - I felt genuinely happy and even a little impressed with myself that I was finding and managing balance.

I wrote a quick "happy birthday" email yesterday to a colleague with whom I had been good friends with before Maxie died.  The email that I got back thanked me and asked how I was doing?  More specifically, he asked how I was managing to balance motherhood with work...as if I was in some new stage in life and that I must be trying to figure out how I could possibly "have it all" now that I have Mo.  What he doesn't understand is that having Mo is what brought back the balance.  Losing Max is what threw my life out of balance.  What I wouldn't give to have never experienced this loss - so that my biggest issue was how to manage "it all".  I didn't respond.  I don't think he cares anyway...and I don't have an answer.  He probably just had nothing else to say, since we haven't spoken in a year and almost eight months.

I don't care about "having it all" these days.  I am not trying to stay on top of everything.  I don't feel the need to go to bat for myself or carve out time for my family.  I'm not trying to keep all of the dishes and counters clean.  I am not worried about making every minute with Mo into a teachable moment.  Sometimes we snuggle, sometimes we read, sometimes we watch television.  Often I don't do the laundry or the dishes - they can wait.  I am not trying to figure out new ways to leverage my position at work.  I just try to do the best job I can.  I just try to enjoy each moment as much as possible. It just "is"....I can't really explain it.  It is connected to my feeling that looking forward may be an exercise in futility.  I believe that most people are looking for balance in one form or another.  I am slowly accepting that for me, balance will mean something completely different than what it once did.  For me, the balance comes in looking for joy despite my pain - cherishing the moments with the ones who are still here, while constantly mourning the one who isn't.  I don't have the luxury anymore about caring about my work/life balance....and in retrospect it feels like it was a luxury - because once, I had it all.  No matter what my future holds, I will never have it all again (because to "have it all" would include Max and that will never be)....but I can find some peace in my moments....I think I will continue to experience love (I am WILD about Mo)....and that is probably as close to balance as I'll ever get.

4 comments

Jayden's Mommy said...

I feel exactly the same. I felt like I had it all. I didn't take other promotions at work primarily because I felt I had missed so many milestones with my girls because of work. However, I was happy and satisfied with my position. Loosing Jayden did throw everything off balance. I know and I feel like having Kyle is bringing back the balance. however, i know that it doesn't matter how much I can climb the corporate world because my son is missing. Life it's not complete. I like how you explain this.

Carla O'Brien said...

You said it perfectly. As a mother of 2 boys working at what I thought was my dream job after college I thought I had it all. It was tough to balance but I managed. 2 months before I had my third boy I was laid of from this what I thought perfect job. I felt so defeated but decided to enjoy life and stay home with my three boys until the oldest started school. It was tougher than I ever imagined and I was depressed from getting laid off. Little did I know my youngest would die from SIDS on his 5 month bday. Wow and to think I thought I lost it all when I lost my job. It's not even on the same spectrum. My perspective on everything has changed. You are right, we will never have it all. Even though we are expecting baby number 4, I feel so alone knowing I will never have my complete family together. Your life gives me hope to feel joy again.

Maxie's Mommy said...

Carla - my heart is broken for you. I am so sorry that you are going through this agony...and it is AGONY (mixed with equal doses of heartbreak and horror). You will feel joy again. It will be complicated but it will feel amazing. I will hold onto that hope for you, even when you cannot hold onto it for yourself.

Tiffany Torres said...

I can relate. I also thought I had it all before I lost Julius. Now I'm just trying to keep it together and do the best job I can.