Many working mothers battle their guilt every day as they strive to be good parents and have successful careers. The guilt never goes away as we try to balance our ambition without sacrificing quality time with our children. As a single mother myself who raised two young children while climbing the corporate ladder, I know from my own experience as well as from my clients that we put great stress on ourselves to be perfect in both roles.
I think many of us have now come to terms with the fact that any type of true balance is really not achievable and the best we can do is to do the best we can every day and be present in each of our roles. In 2015, Harvard Business School released a working paper that helped many professional women, intellectually at least, see that there is a silver lining; that in fact, it benefits our children (especially our daughters) if we have a career. Researchers found that, on average, the daughters of working mothers were paid 4% more than their peers, and they were more likely to be promoted into senior positions. One in three daughters of working mothers were in manager positions, compared with only one in four from non-working mothers.
My take away from these findings is that professional women are great role models for their daughters.
I recently spoke with Jill Gordon, an attorney and partner at Nixon Peabody in Los Angeles, to learn more about how she manages to spend quality time with her daughter and thrive in a competitive and demanding work environment. She outlined for me her strategic approach to balance and how she serves as a positive role model for her daughter.
Marcus: How do you carve time out of your busy schedule to spend quality time with your daughter?
Gordon: I try to think of all of the things I need to accomplish in a particular day or time frame together, without grouping them as work or personal, and then plan accordingly. That way, I have activities planned with my daughter, or things I need to do with her, mixed in with calls with clients and colleagues, and drafting documents. Aside from planning my to-do list, I plan logistics so if I have a blend of personal and work during a particular day, I can be focused on each activity and interaction. That doesn’t always happen seamlessly, but I found mixing the two gave me a lot more flexibility and I could spend time with her when it was important to her, without feeling pulled in different directions and not being mentally present. Also, we often work together in the evenings – she does her homework while I do client work. It’s sort of like our own study group.