Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg has generated much discussion about her directive in “Lean In” for women to take charge of their careers and assume leadership roles. The expectations for women—both young adults and of a certain age—to excel at on the job and on the home front have ignited what academics call a heated “cultural conversation.”
Joining in the discussion last week was journalist Elsa Walsh who climbed to the top of her profession at the New Yorker, the Washington Post and as a book author. But now, at age 55, she questions, “many of the truths I once held dear” about success at any cost.
In “Why Women Should Embrace a ‘Good Enough’ Life,” Ms Wood confronts the much-debated question if women can “have it all, at the same time.” After working full tilt for decades, having a child, and then cutting back on her work schedule, Ms. Wood comes to the conclusion that “It helps to take a longer view of a woman’s life.”
What does that mean? She criticizes Ms. Sandberg for three specific points 1) Underestimating how hard it is to have a demanding career and small children without well-paid help; 2) Not realizing that childhood is a one-time opportunity and that those babies will grow older and leave. Ms. Wood writes: “With my daughter poised to leave for college, all I want is to have more time with her, not less.” 3) That being tethered—physically or electronically—to work 24/7 is not the way to live: “Imagine what that life looks like to a child. Imagine what it looks like to yourself when you are 80.”
As our adult daughters forge their way through uncharted territory at home and work they must make their own decisions on how to “balance” or not. When they are conflicted and turn to us for advice, Ms. Woods message is well worth passing on:
“Making compromises is a healthy approach to living. For a woman to say she is searching for a ‘good enough’ life is not failure — it is maturity and self-knowledge.”