"Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life." -Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth commencement speech, June 8, 2014
Shonda brought up the age-old debate of whether a woman could have it all during her speech at Dartmouth's commencement ceremony on Sunday. I couldn't agree more with what she had to say.
Since I could remember, I wanted it all -- the house with the white picket fence, the husband, the two kids, the career, the MBA and, of course, the dog. Fast forward to the present and I've got it all -- minus the dog and the white picket fence. While it may appear that "I have it all," it does come with a disclaimer.
In our tireless search for perfection, at least for those of us with Type-A personalities, I came to realize you can't have it all when I had my first child at 30. I was at the pinnacle of my corporate communications career in banking, and in the middle of completing my MBA. I wanted to start a family and it was never going to be the right time.
Something had to give. You can have it all -- just not at the same time.
My good friend and mentor, wise Latina Liliana Grip, has been saying what Shonda says for years. She told me that early in her career she would pass on promotions to be able to attend her kids' soccer matches and ballet recitals.
During a business trip, my daughter took her first steps and I missed it. As Shonda says: "If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home." Preach.
In her book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, Barnard College President Debora Spar persuasively argues that despite all the gains women have made in the past 30 years, they simply can't have it all.
As a working mom, I'm always trying to strike a balance. But it doesn't happen. The reality is that the house will never be as clean as you want it to be, and you simply won't have a perfect manicure, unless that new business presentation gets done at 2:00 a.m.
I love my job and I am very passionate about my work. As a result, I get so involved that I sometimes I forget that I have a parent-teacher conference. Yes, that happened. I know this doesn't make me a bad mother. But that's the thing: No matter what you think, what you believe, people will always judge, especially other moms.
This goes whether it is your co-workers that frown upon you when you have to attend a school open house, or stay-at-home moms that look at you like you have two-heads when you can't make it to an afternoon playdate in the middle of the work week. Really?
Even Sheryl Sandberg discussed the "mommy wars" phenomenon in her feminist manifesto -- a.k.a. my bible -- Lean In. I respect women who choose to stay at home and dedicate time to their kid's elementary school, and I also hold tremendous respect for the CEO who executes million-dollar deals every day.
What is unfortunate is that other moms are the judgmental ones. I often feel like Sarah Jessica Parker in I Don't Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica brings store-bought baked goods to her daughter's school and the PTA moms give her a dirty look. I've been there.
There have been times when I feel like her, juggling so many balls at the same time and making lists in the middle of the night, except that when I go on a business trip, there is no Pierce Brosnan trying to woo me.
It will always be a challenge to strike the right balance -- you are not going to have it all at the same time but you can come up with your own formula for happiness and success. To quote Shonda: "Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled."