The media's depiction of the ideal woman living in the 1950′s was a domesticated housewife and mother who cooked, laundered, cleaned and sewed, all while looking fashionable with a big, happy grin on her face. Fast forward to today, and she is an entirely different woman. What do you see in the latest Glamour and Vogue magazines? You see a tall, confident woman wearing designer clothes, her role as a career woman, mother, wife and domestic goddess apparent in that "I can have it all" look she wears with such charm. So, what's the difference between then and now? While both images may be illusions of perfection, the real career woman and mom today is mostly exhausted, completely overwhelmed with the second shift at home, struggling with guilt and stress.
I was this woman two weeks ago, so I was very proud of myself this week. As usual, I had my media pass for the incredible C2Mtl Conference. (If you're not familiar with this awesome event that comes to Montreal every year, just check out this year's lineup of speakers.) I love this conference because I always leave with an incredible interview for my readers. Last year, it was Arianna Huffington. This year, I had my eye on Richard Branson (second time's a charm), makeup legend Bobbi Brown, and fashion goddess Diane Von Furstenberg.
Interviewing Richard Branson
So, I was all ready to rock and roll this week. Except... the conference came and left, and I never went. Not to hear one speaker, not for five minutes. The conference I had been waiting for for months just passed me by this week. I missed out on incredible content for you, and incredible learning for me.
But it was the choice that I made, and one that I'm proud of.
You see, in life, I believe as women, we MUST know our limits. My mother, a wise therapist, taught me this many years ago. We must know our limits at any given moment-- it's our secret to thriving as women. Know what you need and give it to yourself whenever possible. What did I WANT to do? I wanted everything! I wanted to spread myself thin... do my weekly global segment, write, coach a client, go to C2Mtl (day and night so as to not miss the speakers I wanted to hear), fly in and out of Montreal for a 60-minute meeting yesterday, make it home for a school event. What did I ACTUALLY do? I made the decision to completely cut out C2Mtl -- something I had been looking forward to for months. And while it felt shitty (if I am to be honest) to read those live tweets like "Erica, why aren't you here? You'd love this conference, it's so you!", I felt less stressed and as if a burden had been lifted by my saying "no." I didn't know how I was going to fit everything in, and so I didn't.
I may have missed C2Mtl, but I didn't miss my son's kindergarten French play, and my other son's 4th grade book trailer. Life is about making choices, and we hold the power to choose. Sometimes we miss out on amazing opportunities with the choices we make, but in my opinion, it's simply about priorities. And I'm just not prepared to put my family second. Who knows, maybe that's the real secret to being a rockstar businesswoman -- putting your career first. But I'm not ready to blow my family for my career. There are no do-overs as moms. Some days you're ahead, some days you're behind, but at the end of the day, all we can do is our best. Motherhood doesn't come with a "Dora the Explorer" navigation map.
Grade 4 book trailer
Our little kindergarten lion
Big brother supporting little brother at his play
So, I'm happy with my choice. Am I sad I missed C2Mtl? Hell yeah, but there's more to life than work. There is. And I'm not on the fence about that.
I'd love to know: Have you ever given up an opportunity you really wanted, or said no to something great, or felt like you were missing out by being a mother? How do you know what choice to make in these cases? I think of the women who have given up thriving careers to be selfless stay at home moms, it's just hard to do it all. Something's gotta give, no? Would love your thoughts...
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.