Sheryl Sandberg’s secret (Shhh...)


Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, speaks during a plenary session at the 42nd annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in January. (Jean-Christophe Bott/AP)

My reaction to the news: WHY KEEP IT A SECRET?

Sandberg says she felt confident enough to own up to her office-schedule only in recent months because of the need to prove to colleagues that she is a hard worker. (She admits to also sending e-mails at 5:30 a.m. and working late into the night from home.)

I’m a young woman, a newlywed who is also in love with my career and looking forward to starting a family. Like many of my friends, I’m always searching for examples of women who are succeeding in their careers while raising their children.

My generation has lived through the mommy war debates and heard the “you-can’t-have-it-all” harangues. We’re tired of all the talking — but we do want to hear how you do it. Sandberg’s pronouncement has the potential to change the culture at least a little if we let it.

I cannot look to the past for answers. I watched my own mother juggle her work in Houston’s oil and gas industry without a nanny. But she and my father were raising my sisters and me in a place and at a time where there were trusted women in my neighborhood who had after-care in their homes. Miss Polidore’s house was a safe haven where we were taught to read and exposed to new things. (Every kid was required to try pea soup before declaring our dislike.) We made globes out of papier-mâché. In this transient global world, with our ever busier lives, those kinds of networks are frayed.

We are also blessed with ever increasing opportunities for women in the workplace, and the women I know want to take advantage of them. But we need examples. Powerful women like Sandberg have got to be willing to own up to how they manage.

Does she have a cook? Does her husband cook? Does she have a nanny? Is she involved with the school PTA? Is her husband? When I meet a highly successful woman raising small children who is willing to be real, I ask those questions.

It drives me crazy feeling like my generation is left to figure out how to make our lives work when so many other women already have. And is the trail really blazed if you keep it a secret?

Krissah Thompson is a reporter on the Post’s National Desk. Follow her on Twitter at @Krissah30.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.

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