Since I became a mother 16 years ago, I have experienced the challenges of being a working mother. Also, as a coach and a friend I have watched others struggle as working mothers. Being a working mother is fraught with guilt, exhaustion and moments of intense satisfaction. Tiffany Dufu author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less has a fresh look at the dilemma and a useful guide for us to follow. The premise of the book is that women cannot “have it all” if they continue to “do it all”. It reminds me of the story of Cinderella, when her evil stepmother tells her she can go to the ball if she gets her enormous and impossible list of tasks done first. She has been set up for failure and so have we. How can women truly advance in their careers with these kinds of expectations? Dufu has given this a lot of thought, spoken with a lot of successful women and has experimented with her theories. Thankfully, she shares her well-researched strategies with us in her book.
Dufu explains that one way women can do less, is by creating “All-in Partnerships” with her husband (or partner or family member, etc.). All-In Partnerships mean that both parents are running the home. If you think about all the times we are disadvantaged in our career due to our home responsibilities, we need to ask ourselves, do we need to be doing it all? How can we share the wealth? The more we share our home responsibilities, the more time we will have to devote to our career. OK, don’t roll your eyes, because according to Dufu, we are as much on the hook as our spouses in our journey to create an All-in Partnership.
How do we create an All-in Partnership?
Let Go of Home Control Disease (HCD)
First, Dufu explains, women must let go of Home Control Disorder or “HCD”. Come on, you know what she is talking about, right? By being the boss at home, we are limiting our potential of being the boss at work. Dufu talks about how she provided her husband with pages of notes the first time she left her son with him when she went on a business trip. She talks about how she was guilty of HCD and being a maternal gatekeeper. She bought into society’s expectation that her way was the right way when it came to the home. After hitting rock bottom after having her second child, she realized things had to change.
Delegate with Joy
We have learned that “women acting like men” in the workplace is not preferable as it denies the workplace the benefits of a different way of seeing and doing things. Dufu argues that men confront the same bias at home. They can contribute at home, but they are asked to act like women in that domain. Women may delegate to their husbands, but then they micromanage what they delegate. For instance, how many times have you reorganized the dishwasher after your husband has filled it? “One UK study showed that women spend three hours every week re-doing chores that they think their men have done “badly”. So much time would be freed up if the job was accepted as complete, even if it wasn’t accomplished the same way we would have done it.” Women are slow to share their power in the home—the area that women have historically governed. But the key to work/life success and satisfaction is sharing the control of the home with your partner. We need to assume that our spouses can handle delegation, are capable of learning something new (they are!) and we need to let go of our own perfectionist standards of running a home.
Leverage the unique skills of our spouse on the homefront
Once Dufu started letting her husband do things his way, she discovered that sometimes his way turned out to better than her way (go figure!). One of my favorite stories Dufu shares is the time her husband was in charge of finding a babysitter at the last minute. As Dufu explains, when looking for a babysitter, she typically would send one text at a time, waiting for a response before reaching out to another sitter. Her husband’s efficient strategy was different. He sent one text out to 10 potential babysitters and charged them with responding first to get the job. They had a babysitter within minutes. Brilliant!
Drop the Ball!
Dufu discusses her efforts to create an All-In-Partnership with her husband. They literally sat down and created an excel spreadsheet with every single task that they do (which was eye opening in and of itself) and then they decided who would do what based on their strengths, interests and availability. (There favorite column was the “no one does it” column-but this is for another blog.) They continued to use this spreadsheet with modifications when her husband “commuted” from NY to Dubai for work. She tells a fabulous story of how her husband was in charge of dealing with any apartment-related problems. When Dufu noticed she had a leaky faucet before leaving for work one morning, she texted her husband who was in Dubai so he could fix it. Amazingly, when she returned home from work a new, ugly, yet working, faucet was in place! He had bought the faucet online and worked with the super to install it. OK, the faucet was ugly, but Dufu had “delegated with joy” and was able to focus on other things at work knowing the faucet would be taken care of. And her husband could contribute to the house even when far away. Now she smiles with pride when she passes the ugly faucet knowing that this is the perfect representation of dropping the ball. Done is better than perfect—“one person’s ‘done’ can be another person’s ‘perfect’”.
Dufu reminds us that we are not the only ones who can run a home. Our partners are more than capable. Patience and gratitude are great tools as we build our All-In Partnerships and watch our career success grow.
Interested in exploring more tools and strategies for career growth as a Working Mom? Contact me to set up an initial consultation.