Balancing work and family: How to have it all
Within the next couple weeks, my husband Dave and I are expecting our 2nd baby girl. As you can see from this photo, I now am very curvy! A male friend asked me if it’s difficult to maintain my balance these days.
Actually, it’s harder to balance being a wife, mother, and CEO of a global recruiting firm.
Sometimes, people ask me, “How do you do it all?”
The truth is, I don’t. I have a wonderfully supportive husband, a live-in nanny who takes care of our baby and cooks for us, and someone else who comes in to clean our house. All this support gives me the chance to go out and change the world.
Feeling the Pressure to Change the World
I attended the elite Duke University as its renowned Women’s Studies program was being established. We were taught by a generation of female academics and radicals who told us, “YOU are the next generation. We opened the way on civil rights, so that now you can have it all. Go and change the world.”
Society told us: “You Can Have It All.”
But many of us heard: “I Must Do It All.”
I’ve watched as many of my peers spend the past 20 years struggling to juggle kids with huge careers. At the office, competing with the men to be CEO; at home, serving as CEO, COO, cook and nanny. And feeling overwhelmed and inadequate in the face of it all.
Now as I spend time with many of you global young Chinese studying here in the States, I hear echoes of the same pressures facing my peers a generation earlier. Now the message is: “You are the smartest, most moneyed, best educated, most privileged young people in all of China. Your families sacrificed for you to have this opportunity. Now it’s up to you to make your mark on the world.” That spells enormous pressure to perform.
Angelina Jolie Does Not Do It All Herself
Sometimes the celebrities make it look easy. Take Angelina Jolie. Box-office queen. Stunningly beautiful, with a figure not to be believed. Married to one of the world’s sexiest men. A global humanitarian. AND mother to six kids. How does she do it all?
She doesn’t. While she does not allow her nannies to be photographed with her family, she reportedly employs at least five of them. In addition to the teachers, house-cleaners and other personal staff who make up Angelina Inc.
I have a lot of respect for Angelina. She makes an art of the Performance-Image-Exposure key to success that I write about on this blog. Her performance as an actress is without question. She gets constant exposure. And she manages her image more ferociously than anyone else in Hollywood. This combination spins around in a virtuous cycle, making her Hollywood’s most powerful actress.
That said, when Angelina chooses to present herself as an Uber-Mama, we only do ourselves a disservice if we take away from her example a feeling of inadequacy when we do not do it all ourselves.
Get It All by Getting the Help You Need
Nearly every major company CEO is a man. Their 80-hour workweeks means that they are not home raising the kids. They don’t have to, because most of them have two important assets:
1. A stay-at-home wife
2. Full-time household help
Having a stay-at-home wife is a fantastic advantage. She loves your kids like herself. She maintains the household. She’s there all the time. And she even gives you sex. But it’s expensive. The latest salary survey pins the value of a stay-at-home mom at US $120,000 per year. That’s like a Director or Vice President level at a global company.
And household help is expensive, especially here in the States. Having paid help means you need to make good money to pay for that help. And it’s to help you make good money and be successful that I started this blog, so if that is your goal, feel free to look around.
The fact is that educated, global young Chinese today – women as well as men- are under enormous pressure to succeed. And, of course, to raise little Chinese children. By no means do I advocate that you must try have it all, or that you must succeed at a global level. But if that is your aspiration, the way for you to have it all is to not even try to do it all by yourself.
NOTE: My blogging may be light in the coming weeks as I focus on the birth of my new baby. I’ll look forward to resuming my regular writing in November. Meanwhile, feel free to look around this blog for more practical tips for your career success, and to stay in touch with me via Renren, SINA and Twitter. Very best wishes from my growing family to you and your family!
I welcome your comments, in English or Chinese, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.