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Topic-icon Sallie Krawcheck - The Few Smart Things I Did a (Mediocre) Working Mom

8 months 1 week ago #1 by Elnukeda
Elnukeda created the topic: Sallie Krawcheck - The Few Smart Things I Did a (Mediocre) Working Mom

It’s that time of year: we’re coming up on Mother’s Day. And so, not far behind for working women are thoughts of how we balance it all, how we can be the best mother possible….how guilty we all feel because we’re not doing as well at home as we think we should and we’re not doing as well at work as we think we should……

Well, long ago I declared to my family that I’m simply a mediocre mother. At best. If I stretch. And that I’m over – just over – striving for that perfect work-life balance.

As evidence, I’ve made any number of mistakes as a mom, as my kids are only too happy to note. My personal favorite was the time that, from a business trip in Chicago, I decided my daughter was faking an illness, so I told her to get to school. When she protested that she was nauseated, I told her to “take a bucket” with her….which she did…..and then repeatedly threw up in it.

Ok, that was a low point. But I’ve also done a handful of smart things:

I never let the kids see me how upset I was to leave them. When they were younger, there were certainly times when I would close the door as I went on a business trip and almost melt down. Particularly during that exhausted, young kids stage….which coincided with my exhausted, new research analyst stage….which further coincided with a time during which I was nearly terrified to fly. Ahhh, the good old days. But I would hold it together at least until I got out the door. And I never, ever complained about work in front of them.

I convinced my husband early on that when one of the little ones woke up in the middle of the night and screamed “Mommy!!”, they actually meant “Parent of Either Gender.” We took turns finding the pacifier, getting the glass of water, looking for the monster under the bed, and it made all the difference.

I spent one weekend away with each of the kids every year. Sure, it didn’t always work out well. (The trip to emergency room for my daughter to get a cut on her head stapled shut was another maternal low point.) But for the most part these weekends are remembered fondly. Getting away from the routine meant everything.

We split duty on college visits, too. There are two schools of thought on this. But I found that too many family members accompanying the protagonist to visit schools caused him / her to shut down. One-on-one visits also had them pretty quiet for the first couple of days; but after a bit, the teenager’s brooding faded, and slowly, out came, in dribs and drabs, what was important to them and what they were thinking about their future.

When they had real health challenges, I dropped everything. I mean, everything. When my son was in the hospital, I didn’t leave the hospital until he left the hospital. When my daughter was confined to a darkened room for her concussion, I was confined to the same darkened room for her concussion. I was grateful that I had built the kind of career that allowed me to do this.

I put Find Friends on their cell phones. I don’t care if they think it’s “creepy that you know where I am all of the time, Mom.” Without it, they’re not allowed to go out. I still wake up sweating, worrying about them about 30 minutes before their curfews, but at least I can track them home.

And now that my kids are in college, I embrace their liberal arts degrees. But since I’m paying, I’ve also reserved the right to choose one class that they have to take each semester. Hello coding and statistics.

Our conversations around my work are not about that work-life balance thing. They are instead about the impact that I am trying to have through my work. Ellevest is not just a business (though it is a business); it’s mission is to close the gender investing gap and thus help women and their families have greater financial freedom. I don’t want them to think of work as just a grind but as a way for me – and soon, them – to express our family values.

Now here’s the biggie: I’ve let them see me work hard, and succeed, and work hard, and fail, and pivot, and succeed, and fail, and work hard. My career hasn’t been a straight line, by any means, and I never hid that from them. I remember them tiptoeing into my bedroom the morning after I was booted out of Citi, to check that I was ok. And they’ve also seen me restructure my career over time to become an entrepreneur. All the while the underlying lesson has been how much work goes into work and how important resilience is, demonstrated over a lot of years.

Sallie Krawcheck is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, an innovative digital investment platform for women. She is Chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional women’s network, and of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund, which invests in the top-rated companies for advancing women. She is the best-selling author of Own It: The Power of Women at Work.

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