THE BLOG

Erin Callan, Lehman Brothers' Former CFO Feels Guilty, But Not For The Reason You'd Imagine

03/11/2013 04:50 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2013

Erin Callan feels awful about all the time she spent working to get to the top of the corporate ladder. And who in her position wouldn't? Callan was chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers when the firm collapsed in 2008 and set off a global economic crisis.

That's not the root of Callan's guilt, however. In a Sunday New York Times op-ed that many are calling sad, poignant and gutsy, Callan writes that she regrets placing her job above her personal life.

"I didn't have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn't have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn't have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday," she writes.

You can add Callan's editorial to the "guilt pantheon" -- the legions of women who ascend to the top of their field only to tell you how badly they feel about it.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is up there, too. During an interview with 60 Minutes's Norah O'Donnell about how women are holding themselves back from success, the 43-year-old Sandberg said: "Every woman I know feels guilty about the choices they are making, including myself."

Note: "Every woman." Here's what one successful man had to say recently about the challenge of balancing work and life: "Children are awesome," Tesla Motors chief executive and SpaceX founder Elon Musk reportedly said at a panel this past weekend. "But I don't see them much."

Musk went on: "I do email while I'm with my children. And I keep a nanny around -- so they don't kill each other."

Writing for Yahoo News, Virginia Heffernan sums it up: "Work-life balance? I concluded from Musk's talk the solution is to have a ton of kids, make a lot of money to pay for them, and hire full-time nannies. The old-fashioned way."

I'm not defending anyone's decision to avoid spending time with their children. Personal decisions are just that: personal. However, in the wake of all the hubbub over Sandberg's book, the controversy of Yahoo's decision to ban working from home and the general excitement about how women (typically mothers) should feel about working, the time seems right to look a little closer at who is doing the hand-wringing about work-life balance.

Is it too obvious of me to point out that it is almost never men?

I'm miles away from the C-suite and also space exploration, but I have two very young kids at home and not that much guilt about spending most of my work day at my desk.

Even more full disclosure: I like eating lunch at my desk, away from my kids. It's refreshing not to have to referee fights while eating. I was thrilled to eat a salad while reading about the New York City soda ban during lunch today. It was a welcome contrast from my breakfast, eaten in the dark at 6:15 a.m. (that's when they WAKE UP!), while my 2-year-old and 4-year-old battled over... Ugh I don't even remember.

Men will admit they like the break -- a friend's husband recently told me that he views Monday mornings as "mini-vacations." Women will admit it, too. But too many will then hastily add how guilty they feel about liking it. I'm bored of that.

Now, if Callan wants to talk second thoughts over the financial collapse -- then I'm all ears.