I am both a mom and a CEO, so when it comes to understanding the full weight of being a parent and a business leader, I've always assumed I have a 360-degree view. It took me until last year to realize what I was doing wrong: I wasn't talking about my work-life balance challenges.
Working moms need work-life balance.
As the mom to three little boys (ages four, six, and nine), I am no stranger to the constant balancing act it takes to navigate life when someone gets sick or has a school play during the day or really, really wants a playdate at 3 p.m. None of it is perfectly timed for when the business needs me--or doesn't.
I run a tax business, which means deadlines are key (hello, April 15!), and my son's school lets out each year for the spring holiday during the tax deadline. I breastfed each kid for 18 months, and I timed my meetings with 15-minute breaks every three hours to have the babysitter bring me my boys to nurse.
As a woman in business, I know that those two roles, at best, mean minimal downtime (you're navigating two full-time, 24/7 responsibilities), and, at worst, mean the intersection of priorities that are equally important and at odds with each other. In an aim to appear professional, I tried not to bring these conversations into the workplace. And of course that made sense--as a business leader, that's up to me to navigate.
I am fortunate to run a remote business that is flexible, so I was able to maneuver that push and pull of motherhood and CEO-dom in the way that I needed to. But what I didn't realize is how important it was for me to bring that to the conversation--to acknowledge this dynamic and allow other women to be able to have those conversations in the business, too.
Here's how you can help.
So, here's what I have been doing, and what I think all business leaders need to do as well. I (gasp!) talk about my kids at work. I mention that I need to finish a meeting on time because I have to take my son to a surf lesson. I volunteer that a sick kid kept me up all night, so I wasn't at my best that morning. I also sometimes mention to colleagues if I elect to miss one of the kids' activities to focus on a business priority--that's reality, too.
Essentially, my goal is to make space for other women to be able to do the same--to know that our families being a priority at our company is not just lip service; it's something that is modeled by the CEO. I hope that by sometimes leaving early for a school play, I'm letting other women who work with me know that's OK for them to do, too.
At a time when women make up 58 percent of the workforce yet simultaneously hold only five percent of the Fortune 500's CEO roles and continue to leave the workplace, simply normalizing the challenges parents face and making space for it in the conversation is just a drop in the bucket. But at the very least, bringing the conversation into the workplace--and acknowledging the struggle--is a small step in the right direction.