How Does She Do It?

Sunday's New York Times Business Section often profiles a CEO of a Fortune 500. I always look forward to these profiles, because I'm curious what makes such driven individuals tick. What are their unique personality traits or talents that propelled them to the top of the business world? Do they have a unique vision for the business world? Did they see opportunities that everyone else missed? 

 This Sunday, the New York Times focused on Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. With Facebook's recent IPO offering, a profile on Sandberg was an obvious choice.

Nearly the entire article was devoted to the subject of how she combines her role as a mom with her career. Work-family balance is an important topic. As a mom, I have struggled with combining a career with my family's needs. However, the New York Times seems obsessed with this topic when it comes to women CEOs. They never ask a male CEO how he balances work-family, just the women. Don't men have kids, too? 

I guess I'm not the only one who was annoyed by this column. Rebecca Rosen is annoyed that the New York Times credits Sandberg's success with good "luck," rather than hard work. Penelope Trunk says that the New York Times failed to give the complete picture of what child-care looks like in a family with two hard driven inviduals who work in the tech industry. Multiple nannies are required to watch the kids. She says that you can't run a startup and expect to see your kids. She doesn't think that most women would be willing to make that trade off. Others, like Jezebel, are annoyed that Sandberg blames the victim, women, for lack of ambition for their lack of corporate accomplishments. Katy Waldman says that women do need to fight to get to the top and defends Sandberg. 

Sandberg made it to the top, not only because of luck and ambition, but because she played by rules. She didn't take off time to watch the kids when they were young. She didn't take lower positions or refuse to travel for business. She played by the rules. The trouble is that the rules don't work for most families. I would rather see a focus on leaders, both male and female, who made it to the top and did NOT play by the rules.  Because the rules suck. 


Other links: Sheryl Sandberg's TED speech


50 thoughts on “How Does She Do It?

  1. “I would rather see a focus on leaders, both male and female, who made it to the top and did NOT play by the rules.”
    You should probably define “the top.”
    Mary Kay Ash (i.e. Mary Kay) might be a possible. Her Wikipedia article says she was around 45 (in 1963) when she opened her first Mary Kay store front, although she had worked for other people previously. Wikipedia also says:
    “She considered the Golden Rule the founding principle of Mary Kay Cosmetics and the company’s marketing plan was designed to allow women to advance by helping others to succeed. She advocated “praising people to success” and her slogan “God first, family second, career third” expressed her insistence that the women in her company keep their lives in balance.”
    S. Truett Cathy (the Chik-fil-a guy) has written a parenting book called “It’s Easier to Build Boys than Mend Men.” Wikipedia says:
    “He has testified that the Bible is his guide-book for life.[2] As an extension of his convictions, all of the company’s locations (whether company-owned or franchised), are closed on Sundays — a rare policy within the food-service industry — to allow its employees to attend church and spend time with their families.[3] This is a policy that began when Truett was working 6 days a week, multiple shifts. He decided to close on Sundays to relax and recharge,[4] as well as honor God. The policy remains intact today as the restaurants are closed on Sunday.”
    I believe Dave Ramsey is also very particular about shooing employees out of the office by six. He often brags that his business is consistently rated the best place to work in Nashville.
    There’s a certain consistent thread among all of these people, but perhaps there are others I don’t know about.

  2. The flip side of this is that a lot of people enjoy work more than being home (see Hochschild’s The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work). There’s a good thread on the problem of the workaholic entrepeneur husband on the Catholic Answers Forums. Here’s a quote from there that I found very sad:
    “My husband started his own company. I consider his company the love of his love and his employees are his children. The company received all his love and attention and eventually all our money. He worried about the health of his employees but has never helped me when me or our children were sick. He did eventually pay for giving all his love to his company. Wall street took over and let’s say it didn’t end well.”
    There are some very interesting stories in that thread. One point that’s made is that home just isn’t very interesting to a guy who needs a lot of stimulation and positive reinforcement. I’ve seen this myself with some relatives whose business took off. The business became the family priority and at some point, they just stopped doing any housework beyond the most minimal dishes, dinner cooking and laundry. There was an almost total collapse of any home life that had previously existed.

  3. Are there examples of people who’ve made it without playing by the rules? I’m serious. I’m sure there are but I don’t know of any, at least specific to making it in the corporate world. Usually those who don’t follow the rules and make it to the top do so because of an entrepreneurial pursuit, like the examples Amy listed.
    I think I, and probably most of the people I know, have a different definition of “the top” than the one defined in the article. I know several women with young children who work in the corporate world in challenging jobs with good salaries (six figures, which in the midwest at least still means something). I’m more interested in knowing how they do it because that level of success seems more attainable.

  4. And the couple in my story didn’t get regular cleaning help, either, so their home eventually became a borderline hoard, with sheets of cobwebs and dead bugs and cat hair everywhere. There was a big clean-out recently, but who knows how long that will hold, since there’s no habit of maintenance.

  5. Well, and the movie genre of macho men being told to focus on their families and make them work (like the Kurt Cameron movie) is also an example.
    Brigham Young’s psychology department has several task forces/reserach programs on work family balance (including a long running analysis of the effect of flex time policies at IBM).
    I do think that religious institutions have provided some rhetorical counterweight to the ideal worker model, by demanding that work should allow dedication to church (and family) as well as work. Since I’m not religious, I do not know how this works out in practice (for example, a gendered model that treats the family as a unit can divide the role of paid work and church work between husband and wife). But, I do religious institutions are providing some resistance to the model where even the man is required to give all their waking hours to work.

  6. Although I also like hearing about successful people who broke the rule of putting work before family (there are other rule breakers, but I think this is what we’re talking about here), I also think they are outliers and that too much feel good interviews of them might make us miss the bottom line that reaching the top of any field usually involves talent, luck, hard work, and significant sacrifice of other goals.
    In the few analyses I’ve heard of the rule breaker model, the rule breakers are are those who produced intellectual work after 40 (books, art, teaching) or are self-employed entrepreneurs (like Mary Kay).
    Sometimes the first group have leveraged relationships (i.e. married to a history professor, like Laurel Ulrich, or to a legal eminence grise like Barbara Black). There was a fairly horrifying interview of Barbara Corcoran on Marketplace Money about how she got to the top (involving short skirts and sleeping with a boyfriend who invested in her company). I’m not sure if that counts as rule breaking or not.

  7. I doubt if anyone can make it in a traditional sense of being at the top of their field (at least in corporate land) WITHOUT having a spouse who does everything else PLUS working crazy hours. As long as there are some willing to do it, that expectation will remain.
    What I see instead, lately, is talented, smart people who are stepping off the treadmill and redefining what success is for them. And it includes a meaningful family life. Men as well as women.
    But it’s still a luxury, especially if you live in a place with high real estate prices.
    Some careers are round the clock by the nature of their work. Some careers/professions are that way because they always have been and the super stars have the fulltime spouse to pick up the slack.
    And I agree with AmyP – some people DO enjoy work more than home life, especially if you never were able to be around much in the early days and didn’t really bond much with your kids. It ain’t glamorous compared to fancy lunches and meetings and presentations and the rush of a deal coming together.
    When I think about “breaking the rules”, I think more of finding a way to live your life on your own terms rather than trying to change an established way of working in a particular profession or line of work. And part of that may well be accepting that one spouse will have to work crazier hours depending upon their profession.
    Maybe I am old and cranky now but that “Don Quixote” style of tilting at the windmill of workaholism or being the pioneer who is going to change it all seems fine for someone else.
    I’m too busy making my own life…I don’t have the energy to change law/accounting/corporateland/academia [insert long houred profession].
    Net net, “work life balance” is the ideal where you could have stimulating work AND time for family relationships. The reality is that many do not have the luxury of thinking in these terms whether or not they can implement any changes.

  8. The many feminist academics on my campus bristled when Sandberg gave a graduation speech to our students last spring, but tended to have opinions quite parallel to Laura’s.
    For women who put work at the very top of the priority list, the alternative to outsourcing childcare (i.e., multiple nannies) is probably to have a husband who does much more than half if not the vast majority of the home work. That is rare and may not even work because (1) women who are power-hungry probably wind up with rather like-minded men and/or (2) such a husband is less able to help the woman professionally in getting to the top.
    I think that to get to the top means women must definitely *understand* the rules and probably play by all or most of them. Doing that and being married to a husband who also plays by the rules might make it hard to want or be able to participate in overhauling the rules once you’re in a powerful enough position to do so.
    I also agree with this:
    “In the few analyses I’ve heard of the rule breaker model, the rule breakers are those who produced intellectual work after 40 (books, art, teaching) or are self-employed entrepreneurs (like Mary Kay).”

  9. “I would rather see a focus on leaders, both male and female, who made it to the top and did NOT play by the rules. Because the rules suck.”
    I think this is sort of metaphysically impossible, because leaders make the rules.
    bj has accurately charcterized most of the exceptions. There is one other set of exceptions I know, which is sort of the reverse of bj’s, to wit, people who pursued demanding careers, had children fairly late (between 35 and 45) and were in a financial position to retire in their late 40s. Now most of them didn’t make it to the “top,” because they weren’t CEOs, just EVPs or division heads of some such, but that is a species of work/life balance.
    My sister is an example of this latter exception, but not the only one I know.

  10. I think we might have been making some progress towards balance for both genders — but that the recession/big recession/depression whatever you want to call it — has helped derail this by alot.
    There are certainly a lot of industries where people these days are being told “if you’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to keep this job, then I know someone else who will . . ”
    Doesn’t really leave either gender in a position of taking a break, asking for flexibility, etc. There are studies backing up the fact that there is much less flextime, working from home, etc. being offered today in many professions.
    And look at the extremely high unemployment rates of recent college grads. When these women start having children in a few years, they’re not going to be in any kind of a position to ask for any kind of flexibility, etc.
    Most of us are not the only person who can do our jobs — our skills are not that rare or special. Most of us can be replaced. We know that and so do our employers. That is why I travel for work even when I don’t want to or when I realize it’s probably not in my family’s best interest. Last week they cut my male coworker and I kept my job — by the way, he had been the one who routinely asked to leave early for soccer games and the like.

  11. Most of us are not the only person who can do our jobs — our skills are not that rare or special.
    Nobody can do my job as well as I do while leaving so many comments on the internet.

  12. This morning, after I wrote this blog post, I sat down to plan out my next freelance article. Ian’s school called. I forgot to pack his shorts. He has to change into shorts at school, because of sensory issues. He was crying. So, I dropped everything and drove the shorts to his very far away school. On the way back, I stopped into Starbucks, because I hadn’t had breakfast and was starving. All the tables were filled, so I ate my bagel and waited for a spot to open up. Just as a table opened up, a grey haired man with a tie swooped in and took it, even though I was waiting first. Did I say anything? No. Because I’m a passive asshole. I can’t speak for women as a whole, but the demands of family and my stupid niceness have been barriers to my career success.
    Also, like Sandra, I don’t think I want it anymore. When the article came out, I kept looking at Sandberg’s face trying to figure out how tired she was. Would you work those kind of hours and never see your kids, if you could retire and walk away? She already has billions of dollars. She could quit if she wanted to.
    Agree with all the comments.
    I’m at the age where a number of my friends are trying to get back in the workforce, after taking time out to raise the kids. They can’t get secretarial work. They can’t get an interview. Even though they have impressive work histories and education levels. Nada. I wonder if Sandberg would hire them.
    Glad that you survived the job cuts, Louisa. It’s tough out there right now. My husband is always nervous, because he only works 10 hour days.

  13. They can’t get an interview. Even though they have impressive work histories and education levels.
    Three seemingly unrelated facts:
    1. Smokes are $4.75 a pack in WV (and maybe less by the carton)
    2. They cost close to three times that in NYC.
    3. Cops never stop middle class white women driving minivans at just over the speed limit.

  14. I think that women have more power in the workplace than they believe. Yes, most workers are replaceable, but if the trend of women being more educated than men continues then businesses are going to have to rely on women to get the work done and in turn will need to cede some flexibility.
    One of the hardest things for me to admit about myself it that I’m not really career driven. Part of me is always trying to convince myself I want a high powered career but yet when I hear of acquaintances landing big jobs my first thought is always, “eh, sounds like a lot of responsibility” not “I’d like to do that”. For me, this doesn’t have much to with my kids, I think I would be this way regardless. I don’t feel like a failure in this regard it’s just that I seem to have much lower standards for success than most people.
    Also, I’d much rather live frugally and forgo luxuries than have to work more. So maybe I’m just lazy.

  15. Learner said:
    For women who put work at the very top of the priority list, the alternative to outsourcing childcare (i.e., multiple nannies) is probably to have a husband who does much more than half if not the vast majority of the home work. That is rare and may not even work because (1) women who are power-hungry probably wind up with rather like-minded men and/or (2) such a husband is less able to help the woman professionally in getting to the top.
    I just disagree with this on many levels.
    First, a woman who wants to keep working is not necessarily power-hungry. For many of us, our chosen fields of work require some pretty serious time commitment, even if we’re not clawing our way to the top of that field.
    Secondly, these assumptions about what kind of person a careerist woman might marry are just totally inaccurate. My own husband stayed home with our kids for almost ten years, and I know quite a few other families who have done this as well. I will not tolerate an idiot, that’s true. But I understand that not everyone can/should be as Type A as I am, and when considering potential spouses I overtly sought out someone who would balance my personality type.
    The greatest help my husband ever gave me in the work world was the ability to let my phone ring through without picking up. I knew he would handle things if the sh*t really hit the fan. I knew I could run late; I knew I could fly to Philly last-minute if I really needed to. I’m not sure what Learner thinks of as being “less able to help”. But I never needed anyone to coach me, or tell me how to do my job, or provide me with money. Those things I can do, and get. That’s the whole point of continuing at work – I’m really good at those things. I just need the hours to devote to the tasks, it’s that simple.

  16. MH, you are KILLING me this morning with your comments. If your paid work was ever in jeopardy, I think I’d take up a collection just to keep the amusing comments coming…
    Laura – I look at her photo and think that she is a different species than me. I remember being that ambitious – the Mr. and I were at the same level in the same worky/business-y/consultant-y field when we met. He is now a big wheel and I chose to go back to grad school and change careers.
    I remember looking at other women at the time who were opting out and thinking, “what a mistake – what are they thinking??!!” Now I think, “they were smart!”.
    Finally, I remember ALL the work/life balance seminars and books and talks and the like back in the late 80’s and 90’s. It is STILL the same rhetoric now…not that much has changed and like (gah, can’t find who said it up there) said, the recession + free trade has derailed any serious attempts at work/life balance.

  17. Jen – agreed. It’s not so much that ALL these women/men are power hungry, it’s that the paradigm for many professions seems to be “interesting/challenging work = crazy, wacky hours”. That’s what has to change.
    Most people just want to be gainfully employed at something challenging that they are good at. Very few are really trying to rule the world/their profession.

  18. I think she look extremely botoxed up to eliminate the horrible stress lines making that billion dollars gave her. Either that or she is really miserable.
    I was out of the workforce for 6.5 years. I just took a job keeping books for my girlfriend who opened her own law practice. I hated being an internet consultant, every minute hated it and now love this 5-10 hour a week job. But I am very lucky to have this opportunity, which is basically a dream job for a SAHM with limited hours to work and a Big Career Husband.

  19. This morning, after I wrote this blog post, I sat down to plan out my next freelance article. Ian’s school called. I forgot to pack his shorts. He has to change into shorts at school, because of sensory issues. He was crying. So, I dropped everything and drove the shorts to his very far away school. On the way back, I stopped into Starbucks, because I hadn’t had breakfast and was starving.
    A lot of this is just poor planning. Successfully balancing career and family requires planning ahead, especially for as easily foreseeable things as “What does my son need for school tomorrow?”
    I am so tired of the relentless criticism of Sandberg for not acknowledging her luck. Yeah, no shit, becoming a self-made billionaire requires some luck along the way. Her message remains valid, though: you’ll never get to a position of importance if you go through your live and career assuming that you’ll never get to a position of importance, and acting accordingly.
    I know a lot of the Eeyore type of women who level those criticism. What’s most frustrating is that won’t own up to what is the truth for many of them — they prefer not working. They see getting up at 7 am and going off to work for someone else for eight hours as the man’s job.

  20. I don’t even know where to weigh in. I think I should just point to my blog for my own personal struggles with balancing work and family.
    I am a teacher now. I got to school this a.m. at 7:45, as I do every morning. I got home at 5:45, as I do 3 or 4 days a week. I put in 9 hours a day most days, just at work. That doesn’t count the 11 hour days I sometimes put in on the weekends, the evening “parent nights” and open houses, or the evenings spent grading or prepping. I average 50 hours/week, all told. I don’t make 6 figures and never will, but I love my job. I wouldn’t want to be Sandberg. Because the things I do all day are important, but an entire company isn’t depending on me to make the right decisions. That kind of pressure would kill me.
    All that being said, where I work has some children of these kinds of parents–both in really high-powered careers. We have a handful of parents who are famous enough that you all would recognize them. There are nannies and cooks and housekeepers. And some of those parents manage to “balance” despite all that. They’re spending what time they do have with their kids doing meaningful things. When I talk to those parents, you can tell it’s hard; they’re exhausted because they’re trying to do both well.
    And then there are the ones whose kids never see them, even when they are home, which isn’t often. And you can tell. It comes out in different ways, but you can tell. And sometimes they outright tell you. And I don’t want to be those parents. Or more to the point, I don’t want my kids to be those kids. And I already worry about that enough.

  21. “A lot of this is just poor planning. Successfully balancing career and family requires planning ahead, especially for as easily foreseeable things as “What does my son need for school tomorrow?””
    I acknowledge about myself that I’m the kind of person who forgets to pack my child’s shorts. In fact, that aspect of my personality is so strong that no one in my family expects me to pack their shorts.
    But, I’m fortunate they can, mostly, be coordinated into packing their own stuff. And, if the shorts are forgotten (because they forgot), they can deal with it. To glibly dismiss the challenges someone else face shows failures of the imagination. It’s also a failure of the imagination to imagine that something can’t be done, but to assume it can be done, and in the same way I manage would be wrong.

  22. I think Siobhan was a little more sharp than I would have been, but I kind of agree about planning. Or let me put it this way: if I had to drive a zillion miles to my kid’s school, and he would be upset if he forgot something, I would buy 10 pairs of shorts and leave them at the school and an extra pair in his backpack and maybe even get him to wear some under his pants. Because I am that lazy and would hope never to have to make that trip. (Of course, I’m also the person who forgot to make sure E’s after-school program had an inhaler, which became a problem a few weeks ago.) (Also, too, E’s school is literally right across the street.)
    About 5 minutes before E was ready to leave for school yesterday, and about 10 minutes before I leave, he said he really didn’t feel well enough to go to school (he’s had a cold/wheezing). So I sent out a quick FB note to my 9:20 class that I might be running a few minutes late, packed him up with me and brought him to my office and set him up with cough drops, some iced tea, and my office computer, then went off to teach. After apologizing to my students, I tried to make some comment about work-family balance to my students (that class is 90% female students), but I was still a bit frazzled and don’t think it came out clearly. But maybe I’ll send them that article on Sandberg and invite comment. Or maybe I’ll try to figure out how to make a final exam question out of it.

  23. On forgetting stuff–happens to me all the time. And we have frozen pizza more often than I’d like. I’m 43. It’s unlikely I’m going to magically transform into the woman who can do it all without missing a beat. Im just not wired for that. And you know what? That’s okay. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or others. See bk above.

  24. I’m on my phone and lazy but there’s a great work-life balance post up at Wandering Scientist, or was this morning.
    I love my kids, but I also love my dream job for now. I am nowhere near the top of anything. I am ambitious in that I want my thing to be best in its class given its corporate resources. I am not confused about my own priorities.
    A couple of years ago my son had emergency surgery at 7 pm. He loves and trusts my husband who is just as good at sick children since we have always (post Canadian mat leave) split sick days. I had a presentation the next morning at ten to VPs. I passed it to a colleague and stayed with my kid. She got a huge promotion, based partly on that. I have no regrets about it. But I still love my job. It is not as binary as all that, until the day it is. There’s room for medium ambition.

  25. “(Also, too, E’s school is literally right across the street.)”
    Living right next to school (or whatever other location is crucial to your family) is a kind of planning.

  26. We had an accident at school yesterday, after a couple years of unblemished continence (at least at school). School was able to locate uniform shorts, socks and underpants for our 1st grader and he was able to wear those for the rest of the day. (School keeps a uniform closet for the sale of used uniforms, but I’m not sure where the socks and underpants materialized from.) We only live an 8-10 minute drive from school, but it would have been exasperating to have to bring him clothes, especially if he’d been shivering in yucky wet clothes the whole time.

  27. “Her message remains valid, though: you’ll never get to a position of importance if you go through your live and career assuming that you’ll never get to a position of importance, and acting accordingly.”
    And what some of us are saying is that first, we have changed our definition of a position of importance. And second, we probably are acting in accordance with this redefined position of importance.
    Shandra, I agree, there are definitely shades of grey.

  28. I was going to comment, but I basically would have said everything that Laura/Geekymom would have said. I’m not the best planner either, but I don’t want to be Sheryl Sandberg either, so it all works out in the end, I think. You do the work/life juggle the best you can and try to keep your priorities in order.

  29. Gee,Siobhan, I bet we were all wish we were as perfect as you. I was organized enough to write a dissertation, while working 20-30 hours and being pregnant. Raising a kid with autism has unique challenges; I can provide you with links to research about the impact of autism on a family’s finances.
    To get back on topic, sandberg wasn’t talking about middle ambition. She was talking about the super ambition that is necessary to get to COO. And I was talking about the sacrifices and the rule following that goes along with it. Very few people,men or women, are up for a 24/7 job. Middle managers at Steve’s firm, not even the CEO, have no lives. His boss complains that she doesn’t even have friends. Think 9-10 jobs and the blackberry all weekend. I know a lot of people, who have walked away from all that. You guys are teachers and professors and many of you have horrible hours esp when you’re first starting off, but it is nothing remotely like being the COO of Facebook.

  30. What It Is Like to Raise a Kid with OCD
    There are very precise rules that MUST be followed every day. If the rules aren’t followed, then a major meltdown will happen. Let’s just talk about the morning routine. He must leave his bedroom at exactly 7:00, according to his alarm clock. There are three or four acceptable cereals. The cereal must be placed in a particular bowl. He must sit in particular chair. If he eats certain cereals, they must be accompanied by a precise number of strawberries cut in a particular manner. Then he has to get dressed. There’s a 50/50 chance that he’ll be focused enough to dress himself. He will wear long pants on the school bus, but must change into particular shorts at school. You have to make sure that all the particular clothes are washed and ready to go. Then he has to be fed his ADHD meds. After a year of failed therapy, he still refuses to swallow the pill whole. So, the pill must be broken up and hidden in a particular flavor of ice-cream. No evidence of the pill must be seen in the ice cream or he will vomit on the floor. The ice cream must be placed in a different, particular bowl. The medicine tastes vile, so it must be fed to him like a baby with a glass of orange juice, which is in a particular cup. His backpack must contain his homework, his lunchbox, which has another 100 rules, his shorts, and his DS bag, which has also been packed up in a very particular manner. He must be ready by 7:29 or the bus will leave without him.
    At any given time, I’m keeping track of 100-200 rules. If I make an error every once in a while, it is hardly surprising.
    When we moved, we lost a bag with some DS games in it. He’s still obsessed with the fact that we made that error and has threatened to never go to a hotel again. We’re going on vacation next week. This is a problem.

  31. That’s part of the therapy that he is receiving at school. They try to chip away at the rules with ABA therapy. They also work around the rules. The school also an excellent staff to student ratio, so they have the time to learn most of the rules. They also insist that he’s drugged up. He’s in a special school for this reason.
    At some point, we’ll move to anti-anxiety meds to help. But he’ll have to learn to swallow the pills first, because none of them can be popped open and hidden in ice-cream.

  32. I think people vary. Some men and women are happiest, and most productive, at work. That’s great. It’s possible to spend all your waking hours working. In my opinion, if that’s what makes someone happy, that’s great, no matter the gender.
    However, when two parents in demanding careers choose to reproduce, the child needs someone to bond to. It may be a grandparent, or a nanny, but the kid needs someone to love. Children are very concrete. They need the physical presence of their caregiver. If mom and dad are likely to spend weeks at a time thousands of miles away from home, someone has to take care of that child’s physical and emotional needs.
    Not an au pair, because that’s a short-time gig. A reliable adult who will care for the child, who won’t disappear the instant that kid hits preschool. The European upper class system of nurses and nannies met that need. Think of Winston Churchill’s nanny:
    We don’t talk about these issues when the bigshot’s male. The issues are still there, though. When the parents are working crazy hours to put food on the table, kids seem to cope. There may be problems due to unsupervised teens, but the kids are resilient. When parents choose not to know their children, although they could financially afford too, I think it can get trickier. Some kids are fine. Some aren’t. You can’t plan for it to turn out well.
    Again, children need to believe someone cares for them. Paying the bills isn’t enough. Giving them fancy toys isn’t enough. If both parents will be frequently absent, the kids need an adult to love, an adult who can enforce discipline.

  33. I totally agree it is not like being at the top. My husband works 11-12 hours and is on call 24/7 and works generally 6 hours each day 2 out of 4 weekends, and is only a tech lead. The thing is he can work from home, so he can be on a call jiggling a baby (with headphones).
    I work 8-10 hours a day, carry an iPhone, and have to check in on weekends, plus there are times I have to attend events to 10 or 11 pm and on weekends, especially, but not limited to, fashion week and film festival season.
    But unlike being at the top I trade that for sometimes being able to walk out at 3. During the week I work 8 hrs, come home, get the kids in bed, and work more, or get up and work for an hour at 5 am. It is definitely not the same, and I feel that I know my kids well and am involved with them. I also got my two one-year mat leaves.
    I guess I just think that while Sandberg’s advice is good for the top, the idea that _those_ are your choices is not good for women who also want to have families; they may opt out entirely when they don’t _always_ have to to still have an interesting and demanding job.
    If one my kids had/has (I have a 1 year old) autism, I would make the choice you have I think, Laura. The difference is my DH makes less than $90k. And I still make less than he does…mostly because I did the female thing and went with creative work over something harder core. And well, it’s Canada. We’d each make more in the US.
    Here’s that link:

  34. I had a long comment which disappeared. Sigh.
    Anyways, we don’t talk about these issues when the bigshot’s male, but they’re still present. It’s possible to work every waking hour. If two high-pressure people marry and procreate, they have to take steps to protect their child. If they’ll be absent at unpredictable intervals for days or weeks at a time, sometimes overlapping, they have to find or hire a reliable, loving adult to raise the child. In some families, grandparents fill the bill. This adult must be able to discipline the child when necessary.

  35. Autism is only part of the reason that I’m home now. I did manage to do everything for a while though it was very stressful. My job ended and the industry is in such turmoil, that I have to reinvent my any way. Hence, all the writing.

  36. I’m just fascinated with the idea of being “at the top.” I know I’ve used this example before, but I’ll say it again. There’s a line in Death of a Salesman where Happy says, “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number-one man.” There’s something so sad to me in that quote, because not everyone can be number-one man, and it doesn’t mean anyone who isn’t “at the top” is a failure. Yet the whole foundation of our society is about striving to be “at the top.” But not everyone can, so 99% (wry LOL) are set up to be “failures.” (Kind of like NCLB.) It’s a kind of central problem in our ideology. On one hand, competition does encourage advancement, but on the other, maybe we need some sort of paradigm to think about what most of us do, which is “fail.”
    Re OCD: E has some OCD tendencies, and my sister was diagnosed with it when she was in her early 20s. But her OCD was more obsessive than compulsive, if that makes sense. E is not a kid who melts down, which is a huge benefit, but he can get stressed and perseverative when things change on him, though it’s very minor compared to stuff like what Laura has to handle.

  37. Laura, I’m not sure what you want as an answer here–how Sheryl Sandberg “does it” is not a mystery. She has lots of hired help, which she pays for by having a wealthy husband AND an incredibly well-paid career of her own. She got there by being extremely driven and good at her job and making her career a priority, but also by choosing to work in a career where that kind of wealth is possible. This seems pretty clear. Who knows what her children will think of this approach, but that’s not really our business.

  38. Laura, I hear what you say about the tech industry being a sweatshop. I work in a financial institution in IT and people always wonder why I don’t switch to a silicon valley company (so much COOLER) and the answer is I don’t want the crazy lifestyle. But IT even for a non tech company can be crazy due to the need for 24/7 system availability.

  39. Laura: Sorry, yes, it was not all choice for you and I did know that. My job is not gone yet, but will, or if I step out now literally 300 equally qualified people will immediately be on it. I have no doubt that the writing will continue to work out and do well. But I have gotten the sense that managing all the system stuff has been a big piece in your balance puzzle too.
    I might be projecting. We’re kind of at our family limit, comfort-wise. One more thing and either someone has to quit, or the thing has to fund way more help.

  40. See, for me, saying Sandberg does it with help isn’t enough, because I’d like to know with what kind of help. When you’re trying to make it work without the resources, it seems like money might be the solution. But as cranberry points out, just money isn’t enough. You can’t her some one to be a mother (or a father).
    And I don’t mean to be dismissive and suggest “it” can’t be done. I want to know how someone with all the resources they could possibly need manage it in practice. As cranberry writes, I think children need to feel cared for. What constitutes that feeling will differ among individual children. One child may feel cared for by a ride to soccer, another with a morning email. What your own child needs will alter how you do it,from significant straight out needs, like Laura faces, to my own daughter’s care depending on people who love her watching her play basketball.
    As geekymom points out, even people who can hire all the help they need tie themselves into knots in sleepiness nights trying to make sure their children feel loved. Sometimes that means the brain surgeon having to stay up all night making valentines.

  41. AHA! I finally figured out what has been bugging me about the shorts story, Siobhan’s response, then Laura’s response. I am sorry to bring this all back up again.
    Laura, it’s how you were using the example of Ian’s shorts. You first used it as an example of the demands on your time, which implies that shorts-forgetting is one of those things that happen a lot. So Siobhan responded that it was about planning, which I kind of agree with. There are lots of long-term planning strategies to minimize these things so that they are *not* demands. But then you said, “It’s hard to remember all these things, so it’s not weird when I forget.” But that was the opposite of why you gave the example.
    Whew. Sorry if I’m being annoying.
    That said, the reason this has been nagging at the background of my consciousness is because for all my self-righteousness about planning, there is one area where we fail, and that is managing E’s asthma. If we do proper asthma management, then we can prevent E’s asthma from getting bad. But time after time we end up in the pedi’s office with the doctor looking at me like I’m insane because I (and my husband) can’t seem to remember to give E the Flovent when he starts showing signs of having a cold. And E sure can’t do it himself (I mean, he can take the Flovent but not remember to take it).
    I was just reading the poverty gap thread, and I was thinking about the cognitive demands of having a kid with asthma (or any sort of condition or disability) and how easy it is for problems to snowball and get bigger. If I can’t keep on top of this asthma crap, how is someone with way less education/EF skills able to do it?

  42. “I was just reading the poverty gap thread, and I was thinking about the cognitive demands of having a kid with asthma (or any sort of condition or disability) and how easy it is for problems to snowball and get bigger. If I can’t keep on top of this asthma crap, how is someone with way less education/EF skills able to do it?”
    Maybe you should have a sign in red on your bathroom mirror that says, “Does E have a cold? If so, dose with Flovent.” You might have to change the color or location so you don’t stop noticing it. Once you’ve successfully remembered 2 or 3 times, it might become automatic. Or E might even start being able to remind you–C is the same age, and she asks us to take her temperature when she feels bad.
    I suspect that cognitive issues are probably underrated with regard to effectiveness of medical treatment and might well partly explain why US medical treatment is per dollar less effective than in other developed countries. (I can’t find it right now, but I think there was a study on how reading comprehension is very closely related to health outcomes.)
    I don’t know about you guys, but in the past, I’ve often found myself listening to a doctor and had zero idea what he just said. It’s been a real breakthrough for me to say, “Hey, what did you just say?” and get them to repeat it until I actually understand what’s going on and what I need to do. And then occasionally, I run into a doctor who’ll treat me like I have three heads if I bring paper and pen and take notes. I think medical people need to invest more energy in making sure that patients understand the situation and what they need to do. (There are also neat reminder systems–a friend of ours has a reminder system set up so that he will do the anger management exercises he needs to do to avoid getting into trouble.)

  43. I wonder whether cognitive or communication issues are a factor in those cases that happen every few years when somebody dies of a tooth infection.
    I also wonder nurses shouldn’t make a point of asking patients exactly how they are going to manage the follow-up stuff (get the prescription, do an extraction). If it’s a life and death case, they really shouldn’t let the guy go until there’s a workable plan. (I’m going to ask aunt for the money, I’m going to sell my bike, I’ll ask my pastor, etc.)

  44. Gee,Siobhan, I bet we were all wish we were as perfect as you.
    Moping aside, I’m sure you understand that the gulf between “perfect” and “bothers to take two minutes to pre-pack what kid needs for school tomorrow” is enormous. Not even Sandberg is perfect, which is why people like her are so careful to avoid the unforced errors — it’s a lot easier to leave the big meeting because the kid is sick if you didn’t already have to leave the big meeting yesterday because you didn’t pack their lunch.
    Many people never had a chance in hell of ever taking the world by storm, but nonetheless would prefer to blame it on the lack of family-friendliness of the corporate world.

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