I’m the mom of a 6 year old daughter. I’m also a woman breadwinner. On a daily basis, I know that I teach my daughter how to say “Please” and “Thank you.” I make sure her homework gets done and it’s done well. I make sure she can outreadand outperform her peers, that she’s independently able to do her homework, and that when I give her instructions on how the work’s supposed to be done, she can follow them to the tee. I also make sure that she goes to school looking presentable, that she refrains from hitting others, and that she knows how to be “nice.” I do all of that understanding that I’m raising a daughter who has to grow up and one day become a lady. At the same time, I’m raising her with an expectation of excellence that will give her the foundation for success. However, as I sat this morning, and read the introduction of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, it dawned on me that while I’m preparing my daughter for life, I may not be preparing her well for climbing the corporate ladder… and maybe it’s because I don’t know that climbing the corporate ladder is the most powerful thing she can do with her life.
What if the “dream” of gender equality our mothers sold us as children is not the reality we’re living?
What if, at the end of the day, we know we need a new vision for womanhood
and equality but we don’t yet know how to create it or pass it on to our daughters?
What if we’re running out of time to come up with that new vision?
And therein lies the dilemma for women breadwinners:
We know how to succeed and we know how to be powerful but do we believe that the accomplishment and success we now experience is equivalent to a life twe’d actually want our daughters to have?
When Sheryl Sandberg indicates that “the blunt truth is that men still run the world”, women have to stop and ask themselves, “How is that still true?” With more women graduating from college and fewer women opting for the marriage/children route, how is it possible that women still underearn, still play second fiddle, and still show up in the executive meetings and on the board way less than men? What role do women breadwinners have in making sure that this sad reality is not the truth of life for our daughters?
The answers is simple:
We need to raise daughters who aren’t afraid to dream big, be bold, and unapologetically go after what they want and we need to raise sons who are secure enough to support wives, sisters, and daughters who dream big, are bold, and are unapologetically achieving their goals. As Sheryl puts it, “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”
How do women breadwinners help birth this new ideal?
1) Let your husbands lead at home. So often, we want to do it all: homework, bathtime, bedtime, and work 60 hours a week. It’s time we renegotiated the roles, allowed men to step up to the plate in terms of housework, homework, and cooking, and made it okay for us to be focused on career and wealth acquisition as our mates keep the focus on the home.
2) Make your professional aspirations and achievements critically important to the entire family and don’t apologize for doing so. Create a monthly family meeting where everybody sits down to discuss the family’s goals for the year AND how your work fits into the larger picture. Involve everyone in your professional and personal pursuits by developing a family vision that includes your dreams as a key contribution to achieving family goals.
3) Focus on quality family presence, not quantity based family time. So often, women breadwinners stretch themselves thin by trying to be everything to everyone. Get good with the fact that you will miss PTA meetings. There will be recitals that you won’t be able to attend. You might have to watch a game via a You Tube video after the fact. Stop measuring your parental success based on how much time you spend. Focus on developing quality time and the quantity won’t matter.
4) Go for broke. Caroline Myss, in an audio lecture on self esteem, says the following: “Go for broke. I want to die of exhaustion, not of old age.” Waiting for life to happen is a sure fire way to let life pass you by. At some point, you have to decide whether you’re going to live on fire or live lukewarm. If you’re deciding to live on fire, you’ll have to give ALL you have to ALL you do. Go for broke and do your best for YOU (no one else).
5) Teach your daughters that they have the right AND the responsibility to use their God-given talents and take their professional and personal dreams to the highest level possible. In doing this, we have to teach our daughters that their ambitions are gifts, that their aspirations do not have to cost them their personal lives, and that they may not be able to have it all at the same time but they can have it all if they leverage each step throughout their lifetimes. We need to raise our daughters with the same level of confidence, deservability, and self worth as we do our sons.