“Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.” —Barbara Walters
Multitasking is one of life’s challenges that we don’t have time to think about—we just do it. Candice Carpenter Olson, the past CEO and founder of iVillage.com, shared a striking visual with me at a conference years ago:
A career woman’s life can be compared to holding a glass that has six holes in it. Each hole represents an area of our life: work, family, marriage, children, health, community service, or whatever we have going on. Fill the glass with water and our five fingers won’t reach all six holes. No matter what you do or how hard you try, at least one area of your life will always be leaking.
“Now we know that women can do what men can do, but we don’t know that men can do what women can do.” —Gloria Steinem, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey
If a woman’s glass has six holes, I propose that a man’s glass of water has four holes that they can cover without significant difficulty. A man can have the same career demands as a woman, but when a woman gets home, she starts her second career. As soon as she sets foot in the doorway, she transitions into the multiple roles of cook, housekeeper, shopper, and default parent, among many others.
Most of us wouldn’t have it any other way because of the joy we experience when we choose to live full, overflowing lives. But when we become overwhelmed by life, it can directly affect our self-esteem, which in turn affects our workplace behavior. When we are spread too thin, we are unable to give any of our priorities the attention they need. This can turn into a negative cycle that, when left unaddressed, becomes harder and harder to fix.
For example, when we don’t have time to exercise, our body changes, our clothes don’t fit, and we regrettably may lose our self-confidence. We feel out of control—powerless over our own lives. None of us can afford this type of mindset when we’re striving toward the top. While we may often struggle with imbalance, feeling frustrated and underappreciated, we can prioritize what’s most important to us and organize our time accordingly.
The Juggling Act
While caregiver roles are beginning to become more egalitarian, society’s general perceptions of them are not going to change to a great degree anytime soon. Businessmen continue to assume that women will find ways to juggle these roles and shoulder these extra responsibilities, and if they don’t, it’s their problem to figure out. This goes unspoken.
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It’s not fair. It’s a double standard. But it’s the reality. So while we continue to wait for society to shift toward equality, this chapter will equip you with tools to manage your life right now. Take control of your life and feel empowered in the workplace.
Our glasses are leaking. We accept it. And yet, we’ve all known women who seem to have it all together—women on top of their game in their careers that have meaningful relationships, exude confidence, and even have time for exercise.
So how do these women pull it off if their glasses are leaking too? Discipline and organization are part of it, to be sure. But getting everything you want out of life is also about unhooking yourself from the self-perpetuating cycle of trying to do it all. It’s about being mindful of not getting lost in tasks and issues that aren’t important to you.
Success, then, comes once our values are crystal clear and we can make decisions based on upholding them. Aligning your values with the career sacrifices you must make keeps stress to a minimum and success to a maximum.
What’s most important to you? Is it your career? Your family? Your health? Earning a good living? All of the above? Nobody can answer this question but you. Determine what you value, because that’s where success begins and ends.
The Glass Is Half Full
Yes, your glass may be leaking, and balancing life’s demands is stressful sometimes. But in the words of Billy Jean King, the tennis icon who famously beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes, “Stress is a privilege.”
It results from the responsibilities that come with career, family, and a full life. When you’re stressed out, look at the situation from a different angle. When your glass is leaking, it really means that your life is wonderfully full.
©2017 by Marja Norris. All Rights Reserved.
Chapter Two of The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman's No-Nonsense Guide to Making It In the Corporate World
by Marja L. Norris
The Unspoken Code contains no-nonsense advice to help women climb the corporate ladder with confidence, as well as valuable insights from successful businesswomen reflecting on their own journeys to the top. The book's three sections guide readers towards their professional goals and empowers women to push through barriers with moxie and gives them confidence to achieve their professional dreams.
About the Author
Marja Norris is the CEO and founder of MarjaNorris.com, a company dedicated to helping women achieve their career goals with style and confidence. With a distinguished career in finance, she has successfully navigated the male-dominated business world and is passionate about coaching women on how to be taken seriously, be heard, and get what they want at work.