I am kind of stumped on how to continue this discussion…You all have brought up some really great points. I have a whole document laying out what I thought my third post was going to be on the solutions other women have suggested, and what has worked for me. Things like, ASK FOR HELP!
Here was that thought:
Ladies, we have got to ask for help. I get as sucked into the allure of someone who DOES IT ALL just as much as the next woman, but consider this:
“A big problem when it comes to women business owners is that many don’t think of themselves as a CEO. Instead they think of themselves as sort of a chief multi-tasker and the person who should be doing everything in the business. While that may at times work on the home front, in a business that is not the best way to go. A CEO of a growing company has to be able to step back and make plans and engage other people in doing the work…Women who start out as seeing themselves as the boss are likely to get to the $1 million revenue mark quicker…If you think you have to do everything yourself you limit your vision to what you are capable of doing,” Merlino adds.
See!? It doesn’t make you weak to ask for help, it makes you a BOSS!
And in the interest of transparency and not perpetuating this expectation, here is the truth on our help and schedule. We wake up every morning with Grace, do breakfast and snuggles, until our most wonderful, kindest, loving housekeeper gets here. Then I either do work from home or exercise/shower (when I can) until I go into the office to meet my interns. Usually Pete takes Grace on a father-daughter lunch date, and sometimes brings her by the store to say “hi” to me before nap time. She naps, and then I get home to relieve our housekeeper since Pete works and is taking classes at night. Gracie and I go on a walk, to the park, Elmo, whatever the day calls for, make dinner, bath time, bed time. Then I work until Pete gets home and we try to shut off for an hour together. If I still have more work then I do it in bed until I’m finished. Sometimes that is at 10:30, sometimes it is at 2:00 am. That is our “balance”, and honestly it works pretty well. I am able to see our girl throughout the day, and I feel like we get some quality hours together in the morning and afternoon, but I really worry how it will work once the store is open and I have to be at there until 6:00. Right now the plan is that she will be at the store with me in the office, but who knows if that is realistic. We will have to take it as it comes and make it work.
On the business side, I could not do any of this without my business partners or my interns. A few months ago Pete and I were part of a magazine photoshoot at our Austin house. I noticed that between shots the photographer seemed to pay no real attention to the lighting or shot set up and I asked him about that. He told me that one of his mentors early on had advised him to avoid learning about the lighting and other technical aspects of the shot, believing that being bogged down or even aware of the effort required to set up the desired shot could hinder his vision. As the photographer his role was to conceive of the best shot of the room, and then capture that image. All the work in between those two end goals was someone else’s job. That is anathema to everything I have ever believed about what one should do to be the best at their job- and yet it rang so true to me. I have grown up admiring hard scrabble stories of people who worked their way up through the ranks, mastering every task involved in a job before reaching the top and possessing the knowledge from each level on the way. But I do know in my decorating work that there are often times when I come up with an awesome balls to the walls idea, that I then talk myself out of once I start to wade through the many details and efforts required to make it happen. I think there is a need for balance, there is a certain achievement in seeing a difficult task through each of its phases, but I also think there is a time to recognize your own strengths and the strength of others and assign tasks based on what will get the best end result.
My other piece of advice I endorse from my own experience? (again, not trying to make this all about me, but I don’t claim to know what is going on for anyone else) Make your partner a real partner.
Sandberg talks about it in her TED Talk:
“Message number two: Make your partner a real partner. I’ve become convinced that we’ve made more progress in the workforce than we have in the home. The data shows this very clearly. If a woman and a man work full-time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of housework the man does, and the woman does three times the amount of childcare the man does. So she’s got three jobs or two jobs, and he’s got one. Who do you think drops out when someone needs to be home more? The causes of this are really complicated, and I don’t have time to go into them. And I don’t think Sunday football-watching and general laziness is the cause. I think the cause is more complicated. I think, as a society, we put more pressure on our boys to succeed than we do on our girls. I know men that stay home and work in the home to support wives with careers, and it’s hard. When I go to Mommy-and-Me stuff and I see the father there, I notice that they other mommies don’t play with him. And that’s a problem, because we have to make it as important a job, because it’s the hardest job in the world to work inside the home, for people of both genders, if we’re going to even things out and let women stay in the workforce. Studies show that households with equal earning and equal responsibility also have half the divorce rate. And if that wasn’t good enough motivation for everyone out there, they also have more—how shall I say this on stage? – They know each other more in the biblical sense as well.”
And then JJ Keith talks about it in the greatest parenting article ever:
“If you have a partner, use him or her. Co-parent! Leave your partner home alone with the baby while you go to the grocery store. Or even better, send them to the grocery store together while you stay home alone. Don’t fix it when your partner dresses the baby in two types of stripes. Don’t deride your partner’s babyminding faculties. Don’t believe that only you have the magic to make your baby happy. Don’t hover over your partner when he or she’s with the baby and treat him/her like an employee who has to be trained. Don’t refer to what your partner does as “babysitting….If you don’t control your tendency to be controlling you will imprison yourself. Go ahead and try to be perfect if you want, but don’t blame the institution of motherhood or your baby when you go two years without finishing a sentence, sleeping through the night or having sex…You can’t win at parenting or homemaking. If you think you’re winning then everyone else thinks you’re a dick.”
I can admit I am the person who has the tendency to imprison themselves with their controlling tendencies. Since I simply haven’t been able to be as controlling, I have seen how destructive my hovering can be to my ultimate goals and desires. Since Pete has taken charge of our girl for a few hours a day on his own, he has his own way of doing things, and I love how special his relationship with Grace is. And if I hadn’t let go of my controlling tendencies, I would never have learned that Grace really prefers a very full bath. Had I known Pete was bathing Grace in the deep end, I would have been like GET THAT BABY OUT OF THERE SHE IS GOING TO DROWN THE WATER IS UP TO HER EYEBALLS!!!!!! But false, she loves it. She laughs and bobs around and it is so much easier because she is so happy. Moms, our role is important, but Dads tend to be the ones that test the waters when we would be too nervous to break the rules, and the results can be really adorable.
And I had more, some pearls for our corporate sisters I searched out after reading some comments. But then. There is this. I said it at the beginning and I am going to say it again now:
NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE ON EITHER SIDE OF THE EQUATION IF WE DERIDE EACH OTHERS CHOICES AND CIRCUMSTANCES.
But maybe that isn’t the answer, maybe we just have to toughen up and stop caring so much what other people say (which is kind of like telling me to grow a Unicorn horn, I would love to, but howwww???)
Because here’s what, there is no way to win. And to demonstrate, please let me share an email and a comment I received within the same few days:
First, I am not saying they are the same. I invited the discussion, and was actually most excited to read the comments that saw things a bit differently, and I am pleased that everyone kept things civil. In no way am I saying “Annie” was coming from the same place as “Desiree”. BUT it is clear that there is no way to please Annie and Desiree both. I can work my ass off following what I truly believe is my correct path, and that is either a vanity project or abandoning my child. I can avoid talking about these issues and be a selfish, unaware rich girl, or I can disappoint my readers by “going there”. Either way, someone is going to think I am a pure asshole. I guess my job is to know myself well enough to not let it affect me. That is what I am working on, anyway.
I do doubt that guys criticize each other like this.
It seems like a lot of work for women to with fight each other and a system that favors men for success. My hats off to the ladies climbing the corporate ladder, at home with the babies, or elsewhere who have defined success for themselves in the face of such criticism. I truly had no idea that was what we were up against.
And…because after staring at this post with a frown on my face for an hour I got sick of being sour…Here is a sampling from the rest of the comments, which have been so inspiring…let’s refocus on this perhaps?
Lori Posted October 7, 2012 at 11:39 pm
Well I have lots of thoughts on all of this. But they are best discussed with a beverage. I felt it was easier to work when the kids were smaller. Or maybe I have forgotten. Ha. Now that they are school aged I struggle. I have so many new business ideas, creativity wanting to escape and more ambition than I have energy. However, I really want to be the person who picks Livi and Reeve up everyday from school. It’s in those minutes that I here the truth about their days, the excitement in their eyes, or the struggles they faced. I still work, I just limit the projects so that they can fit in my little window. My biggest piece of advice is to not forget to take care of yourself. And I mean forget ~ literally. <3
Andrea Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:23 am
I think one important thing we have to do is talk about how we accomplish what we’ve accomplished in business, so will share this story. For the last job I got, before I went out on my own (I’m 3 years into my successful business), I received an offer over the phone. The person told me the salary & I asked for the weekend to consider it. I called on Monday and countered with a hire salary. He said “but that’s not what I offered.” I said “but that’s what I’m worth.” And then, I said nothing. It was hard, but I just let that hang in the air. And then he accepted my counter-offer. It was incredibly empowering, and it was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do in a professional setting. So worth it, though, especially knowing how often men ask for & get higher salaries that women could have gotten but for remaining silent.
I encourage you to consider how you can empower and mentor your employees at Biscuit. Help train them for better, higher-paying work than what you can give them – help them see themselves as people who could start businesses, and teach them how to be smart, ethical, and compassionate. There are some great women business owner role models here in H-town. I’ll raise a toast (sorry, it is hot tea b/c it is just 5 am!) to your success!
Jackie Jade Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm
I love this post! It’s something I have thought about a lot recently and discussed with my friends. I am an attorney and it’s a tough field for women to succeed because it’s often long long hours and a lot of “face time.” I have been trying to meet with other female attorneys in my area and hear their thoughts on how they have a balance. It is difficult, because the typical way to be promoted is to work more, more, more. I am not opposed to hard work, but I wonder how that model will play out once I am a mom too. I think it’s important for women to recognize the hurdles we are bound to face and to do our best to change what we can, but also to do what is the best for us, our families and careers. Excited to read more posts/comments on these issues the rest of the week!
ashley Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm
i will echo the previous comments and say kudos for broaching this topic and i’m really intrigued by some of the facts and figures you shared. i wonder how many of the women who own the businesses that are not impacting US revenue & jobs are mothers or future mothers who consciously made the decision to work out of the home so they could be with their children more. i’m sure that owning a work-from-home business takes a ton of time and dedication, but it also allows for flexibility unlike a typical 9-5 (or let’s be honest and say 8-6ish) office job does. i would also be curious to know how many of those businesses succeed or are in existence 1 year later. 5 years? i love the surge in entrepreneurship, but it almost seems trendy to start a business these days, especially in wedding planning and curated online shops. a lot of the start-ups that i’ve seen succeed have teams that includes experienced business partners, founders with business degrees, formal business plans, and/or a truly unique product offering. obviously you don’t need all or even any of those things to succeed, but i wonder how business-savvy some of these new biz owners are and if they would be able to take a chance like that if they didn’t have a partner that had a steady flow of income to fall back on.
Melissa Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm
Oh my gosh, I have so many thoughts on this topic…For me, the single biggest changes that would help women work and achieve more in business is: 1) make the school day match the work day 2) provide a tax benefit that is actually commensurate with the real-world cost of full-time daycare, rather than the paltry $5000 max per family (insane, no quality, full-time daycare in this country can be had for $5000 per year for one child, let alone multiple children) 3) Women supporting each other, regardless of the choices we make for our families–how can we expect to be taken seriously in the business world if we are busy tearing each other down about PTA volunteering and SAHM vs. work?!…I need work to appreciate my kids, and I need my kids to appreciate my work! But the juggle can definitely be tough, and it takes a lot of finessing to make it happen–great daycare/home help, support from family/friends, involved partner, lots of patience. We actually moved from a place we loved, in order to be closer to family that could help out so that both my husband and I can “do it all.” And there are still days when I feel like I am failing on every front….usually when that happens, I realize I need to sit back and look at what I am involved in, because it’s probably too much. Something has to give.
Though I have to say that with my personal business, I do find myself kind of laying-up about what my goals are…your post made me own up to that and re-think what I want it to be, regardless of my role as a mother. Because how many men own a business and caveat their growth/success with, “well if it fits into school hours.” I so look forward to the discussion this week.
Emily Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm
…I loved this post. I’m an ER doctor in the military. Which is basically the boy’s club to end all boy’s clubs. But this comment is not about boys vs. girls. So I digress. I don’t have any babies yet. Emphasis on the yet. I know I want to have kids at some point. Preferably after I finish my residency training. Then I owe the military four years of Active Duty Service. After which time, I will probably begin working part-time. Hopefully to spend more time with my children. (who will hopefully exist by that point)
I struggle with this plan all the time. I’ve spent four years of undergrad, four years in med school, am halfway through three years of residency, and will spend four years in full-time Active Duty service as a military physician…all to be able to have a part-time job? Yet at the same time, I couldn’t imagine working full-time and having my children be raised by someone else. This is not to say that I’m opposed to having help…quite the opposite…
And that was just a few from the first post, y’all are a bunch of Beyonce-level badasses. Thank you for contributing. Anyone have advice or thoughts for these ladies?
And in conclusion today there is this, from a phenomenal article a commenter posted on the so-called “mommy wars”:
“As far as I can tell, no matter what decision a woman makes, she’s offering an invaluable gift to my daughters and me. So I’d like to thank all of you. Because I’m not necessarily trying to raise an executive or a mommy. I’m trying to raise a woman. And there are as many different right ways to be a woman as there are women.
So, angry, debating ladies… here’s the thing. My daughter is watching me AND you to learn what it means to be a woman. And I’d like her to learn that a woman’s value is determined less by her career choices and more by how she treats other women, in particular, women who are different than she is. I’d like her to learn that her strength is defined by her honesty and her ability to exist in grey areas without succumbing to masking her insecurities with generalizations or accusations. And I’d like her to learn that the only way to be both graceful and powerful is to dance among the endless definitions of the word woman… and to refuse to organize women into categories, to view ideas in black and white, or to choose sides and come out swinging. Because being a woman is not that easy, and it’s not that hard…So, maybe instead of tearing each other up, we could each admit that we’re a bit torn up about our choices, or lack thereof. And we could offer each other a shoulder or a hand. And then maybe our girls would see what it really means to be a woman.”
Drops the mic.