Gwyneth, I want you to know I feel your pain, girlfriend. I am trying to appreciate how it must be hard being a gorgeous Oscar-winning movie star, with limitless funds, on a movie set where someone feeds you and gives you a trailer to take a nap and probably drives you and your kids places with out messing up your designer clothes or your perfect hair. But in all seriousness, I don't begrudge your general fabulousness -- even though there is very little about your life that I can relate to as a working mom (except for the show-stopping outfits that I wear to work). You, like all of us, are just trying to do the best you can with the specifics of your own life.
And Gwyneth, I am a little (okay, a lot) older than you, having been a working mom for almost 20 years. In that time, I have read countless books, articles and commentaries about this elusive (and I would argue unattainable) concept of work/family balance. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, work/life balance is defined as the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy. And then the very helpful example of using it in a sentence, "It can be difficult to get the right work-life balance." Seriously, is that the best you got?
I am pretty sure that we don't do much to advance the conversation or solution on this "work/life thing" if we only focus on the very few, most visible women as examples who seem to "have it all" (by the way, another expression that I would like eliminated from the English lexicon). I mean, ladies, I am trying to incorporate all of your advice -- sleep more, exercise more, carve out thinking time, meditate, eat right, prioritize, eliminate, hydrate. But, Sheryl and Arianna, as true icons of working motherhood, I think you would really help women at every level of career and at every stage of family if your books had titles that seem to more accurately describe the complex high-wire act often with no net that is working motherhood (not to suggest that any other choices are easy)? Let me just run a few by you.
*No Pajamas/Teeth Brushed/Pants Zipped: A Banner Day
*Speed: The Art of Putting Make-up On and Giving Breakfast to Your Kids in a Moving Vehicle
*Turns Out It is a Marathon and a Sprint -- and I Forgot My Sneakers
*Losing Your Kids, Your Keys, Your Phone, and Your Mind before 8:00 a.m.: A Cautionary Tale
•Trying to Keep the Wheels on the Wagon -- OMG, I Think I Lost My Wagon
All kidding aside, this stuff is just plain hard and the challenges, large and small, change all the time: health, children, parents, money, jobs, weather, in-laws, siblings, technology, lost documents, lost homework, lost pets, lost memory, lost sanity -- you name it. And just when you think your head will spin off your body, a new bigger, better, unpredicted and unpredictable challenge comes along.
Don't get me wrong, there are many signs of progress and big steps taking place -- companies, business and people pursuing a different approach to defining the problem and finding the solutions. Take Allison O'Kelly, a successful and well-educated executive and mom of 3 children and entrepreneur. When Ms. O'Kelly started MomCorps, her talent acquisition and career development firm, she had a very specific objective in mind.
"I wanted to help these experienced professional
women get into the workforce
in a more flexible manner."
The company talks about work-life satisfaction. Their approach acknowledges and responds to the realities, complexities, desire for flexibility and general unpredictability of life. Let's hear it for more choices and new ways of communicating about them.
So where does that leave us? I don't know about you, but I am just going to concentrate on finding my wagon and filling it with the stuff that is important to me -- as often as possible. And if and when I do, I will happily give you a ride.
Follow Rachel Braun Scherl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rbscherl