A colleague recently asked me, "How do you do it all? How do you have three young children and a demanding career?" My flippant answer: "I've learned to embrace imperfection."
Having spent more than 20 years at companies like Oracle, SAP and now Domo, I've come to understand that a working mom, especially one with a demanding job, cannot expect perfection in every aspect of her life. It is a constant balancing act, which often results in feeling like something is getting the short end of the stick.
This realization became clear to me when many of my "Type A" friends started dropping out of the workforce when they had children. These women had the best career potential based on their track record, but they were not willing to engage in activity (motherhood or a job) to which they could not give everything.
While the concept of "having it all" may not be realistic, I've realized a few things about myself from trying to balance a high-energy family and career.
1. While it's not true for everyone, I'm a better mother as a working mom than I would be if I stayed home. Because I have fewer hours in the day to spend with my children, they get more "quality time" with me. My children get 100 percent of my attention during those precious hours at the end of the day, after work and before bedtime. I don't try to multitask, answer emails or do household chores. Instead, my boys have my full attention and I tend to have more patience and better interactions with them during this time.
2. My kids are learning valuable skills. It's my nature to overanalyze things, but with more demands on my attention, I don't have the time to obsess or hover over my children's every issue. I've been getting pretty sharp at detecting when I am really needed to step in and when my kids can and should work things out themselves. A friend of mine talked about growing up a "latch key kid" and how it made her independent, resilient and ambitious. She worries her kids will not build these traits because, as a stay at home mom, she tends to do almost everything for them.
3. I have an equitable and happy marriage. No doubt my husband would love more attention (and meals) from me. But, I know we have a better relationship because we understand the "work stress" the other is facing. We also agree on what's important. A spotless home? Nope. Focused time with each other and the kids? Absolutely. We have an equitable relationship because we are both working hard to contribute financially to our family's well-being. It's a true, equal partnership.
4. I've improved my leadership skills. Limited time forces me to focus on high-priority initiatives. Whether at home or at work, I don't spend time on tasks that aren't important or don't move the needle. What's more, I've become quite skilled at saying "no" to meetings or social invitations that don't mean that much to my higher goals.
Every one of us can try to "have it all" in our own way but we don't have to achieve high marks in everything. By learning to balance my personal and professional goals, I've found incredible satisfaction in pursuing what's really important to me in life. To me, this is what having it all is all about -- imperfections and all.