We received several thoughtful responses to Amy Joyce’s post this week about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who makes a point of leaving the office at 5:30 every day to have dinner with her children. Here are two we thought were worth highlighting:
Good for her. I think those who are sufficiently powerful do everyone a disservice if they slink out the back steps -- as if it's somehow wrong. I knew it was ok to leave work at 5:30 when the male partner in the office next door did, openly, every day. No one dared criticize him -- he was brilliant and worked his butt off. But every night, he left at 5:30 to catch a train home for dinner with the family -- then went back to work after the kids went to bed.
I was the same way -- I just sort of lived my life the way I wanted to and assumed that was fine. Partly because I've never been good at playing games; partly because I was always stupid enough to think that if face time mattered more than the quality/quantity of my work, then that wasn’t the job for me anyway (and sometimes it wasn’t). Looking back now, I sort of chuckle at my own naivete. But sometimes it's useful to be oblivious.
Now I'm a partner, and I never slink or make excuses. At this point in my career, I feel like I have a responsibility to our associates (and, frankly, to anyone who still doesn’t "get it") to set the tone for what is "expected" here in the office -- and that does NOT include sitting at your computer until 7:30 every night just because.
I was in a predominantly male environment for 25+ years, working with guys that saw nothing wrong in coming to work at 6am and staying until 7pm in order to advance their careers (face time). I was married to someone that had that philosophy although he could not always live it due to my own career. While I didn’t look on it as a good thing at the time my husband and I got pregnant within months of our marriage and early in my career. Here are my observations.
1. I was lucky. I had some bosses that didn’t like women in my career but the bosses above us both cared about the work more. I could just as easily have worked for a bunch of jerks in which case I would have left the career field. Once you are a parent you are committed. No going back.
2. Having a child early meant that I established my work patterns early and was not changing anything later on. I was not moving down or sideways or anyways as I had nowhere to really move from at that point. I was the primary caregiver and no one expected otherwise. . . . I was the mother after all (sigh). Expectations were set as to what I would and would not do from that point forward.
3. When you have children someone has to be there to drop off and pick up the kids wherever you have them for child care . . . and at the min and max times they tell you. For us that was me. My husband did it when I was unavailable (my job required a lot of travel) but I had to arrange whatever was needed for the kids around my travel. Otherwise, he was the type to do the 6-7 bit. You can’t both do that.
4. I was good at what I did. In some ways the best. I also got it done within the time I was at work. (Have you ever noticed that the ones coming in early and leaving late seem to do a lot of wasted effort things during the day?) If I had to work late for some reason I could get my husband to cover for me and my bosses knew I could be relied on. I made sure this was a rare event by making sure everything I did or turned in was a finished product with all the i's dotted and t's crossed. Bosses were eventually watching the time to make sure I got out in time to pick up the kids. It does pay to be good at what you do.
5. Because of 4 above I did not slink out of the office. I just closed up shop and left, with my head held high. As I moved up the supervisory ladder I made sure this was noticed by my workers and I was telling them to leave.
6. When I left the office I left the office. On the drive home my mind switched from office to home. Just as when I left the kids in the morning and drove to work my mind switched to "work." I don’t think women compartmentalize better . . . I’ve known men who were the primary care givers who had to do this too. But you do have to let work go to focus on the parenting job and vice versa . . . otherwise neither gets done well.
Whatever the choices . . . make sure they are yours or else you will resent them over time.
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