Here it is 50 years after “The Feminine Mystique” was published and women are still struggling with identity. Should we “Lean In” and grab ambition as the book recently published by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg suggests? Or let go of guilt and create a realistic work/family balance once and for all?
Is it time to reignite the smoldering women’s revolution? Probably not. As I look back over 35 years of trying to do it all, I realize that these conversations will likely continue way past my lifetime. You see, there are no easy answers.
Some say we’re our own worst enemies. Of course, women do have a hard time saying ‘I deserve it.’ We credit success to hard work, luck and help from others, not our own core skills. But we should not be afraid of being too smart or hold back so we’ll be liked. And most of all, let’s not blame ourselves. Aren’t you already aiming high and seeking challenges?
Our personal struggle for success goes way back to the beginning. Of course, it helps if we’re raised in a family that provides a firm foundation for trusting ourselves and others, as well as encourages positive self regard and confidence. Still we have to study hard, develop curiosity, nurture a desire to win and hone our leadership skills – and then find mentors to guide us. Finally, we need to choose a partner who has a strong feminine side and isn’t afraid to take care of the kids or the laundry. But achieving the ‘perfect’ combination does not happen very often, and life can be incredibly complicated.
When a new book comes out with a message for women, the issues often becomes polarized. Take the mommy wars, for example. Should we give it all up for our profession or chuck the career and have a rich family life? The truth – as is the case for most everything – is somewhere in the middle. We can have what we want some of the time but not without feeling the pressure. And it’s really impossible to do it all on our own. We need what men seem to have always had – a clear path, mentors, opportunities, and a supportive partner. Only then will we have a fighting chance to be more flexible, resilient and make it all happen.
Bottom line? It’s normal to feel insecure about your choices and guilty about not doing enough. And it helps to have trailblazers with a strong message in positions of power as mentors. But your team is also essential – family, friends and nannies who will support your mission as you minimize internal and external obstacles. And this is a good model for your granddaughters, because it will likely always take a village.