Get this: They asked me to sit on a panel! A work life balance panel. I am not sure I’m the expert on anything really, but I sure as heck am not an authority on work life balance!
My firm wants to support its people in all the textbook ways. It has a bunch of affinity groups, and the ones I fit quite sensibly into- but never officially joined per se- are the women’s group and the families employee resource group. Somehow someone tracked me down and decided it would be a great idea to put me on a lunch panel to discuss the various stages of parenthood and how to make it all work with work layered on top.
They want me on the panel. But do they really want to hear my opinions and real life experiences? This is where I struggle.
The big day is tomorrow, I have the list of questions in my lap as I type (yes that’s cheating but I guess that’s how panels work!), and I still can’t decide what the play is here. Is honesty truly the best policy (and it ain’t pretty) or am I supposed to play the part of the perfect corporate solider and picturesque Mommy?
I remember being in the audience at events such as these in the onset of my career. Listening to women who had clearly kicked butt telling me how easy it all had been- how they’d popped out 3, 4, 5 kids (armies, really) with no effort, rose through the ranks on the trading floor, and were bringing home the big bucks year after year. I always left confused and disheartened- I wasn’t even thinking of marriage yet, but I must’ve been doing something wrong because I was just bumping along and struggling to feel successful day to day. Also, if it truly were that amazing, where were all the other women in my business?
I would hate to know I was involved in perpetuating that feeling of “not enoughness” in my young female colleagues. I would hate to encourage young men to take their paternity leave with pride, knowing they will likely be ridiculed by their tough, macho colleagues who obviously work harder and care more about their careers. I don’t want to set anyone up for failure.
But then again- the truth is, failure is exactly what tomorrow’s future working parents audience better be prepared for. Because you know what? As a working mom, I’m always failing at something. I forgot Sparrow’s lunch, or Lark didn’t dress up for pajama day, or the Boss needed me to stay late the night I ran to Finch’s baseball championship game. If you want to know what how to manage being a working parent, you’re going to have to know how it feels to be totally over scheduled and endlessly out of control. It will always be entirely too much, and you’ll never be sufficient at anything.
So do I tell them I actually don’t have it all figured out?
- Do I mention that maternity leave is a whirlwind and you feel like a prisoner to your hungry colicky baby? And should I relay the story of the time my old boss took a hatchet to my bonus because I took a normal, but still inadequate, leave?
- Do I suggest that extracurricular activities are both a lifeline to friendships for my children but also the bane of my existence and should I say that carpools are more valuable than gold?
- Do I warn them that any given time, one of your children will accuse you of loving the other one more, and should I let them know the other parent will often be the favorite?
- Do I advise them to give up the dream of ever even attending a PTA meeting or making local SAHM friends?
- Do I share my constant state of paranoia and insecurities about my kids hating me and my boss firing me?
Should I lay it all out there like I would with my blog followers?
I think I’ll refine it to this: I’m doing the best I can in my effort to conquer it all, and I’m not sure that if anyone had sugar coated it less in the early years, I would’ve done anything differently. (But I would’ve really appreciated the head’s up!)
* I’m guessing this will be my first and last panel invitation!