No more tiaras

I am the proud godmother to three amazing little girls. It is an honor to be chosen for this special role. In addition to serving as a role model of faithfulness (eek!?) I also believe that one of my duties as godmother is to role model feminist, inclusive leadership and work-life negotiation strategies. I haven’t yet told the parents of these girls that this is how I see myself as godmother. Hopefully they are okay with this since they chose me! Two of them are my siblings, so I think I am okay.

Two of my three goddaughters recently had birthdays and I refused to buy them tiaras. I bought tutus, wands, journals and feather pens, and pretend play shoes and jewelry. But, I drew the line at a tiara. When we were in Toys R Us, my sons kept pointing them out and asked why we couldn’t get them. I fumbled over the answer and tried to explain in terms they would understand what a tiara represents. I did not do so well on the spot. After some reflective time, my answer is this: Tiaras imply weakness. Tiaras imply something that is given to a young girl for superficial reasons- looks, personality, bikinis. Tiaras are usually given to girls by a “higher” power, usually a man, because said higher power has deemed the recipient worthy.

Here’s the thing. We are already worthy. We are already enough. My goddaughters don’t need anyone to give them a tiara. If they want one, they can go out and earn it (or a promotion, or a raise, or whatever a tiara means to them). Which, given what I have witnessed from them already and their amazing parents, I have no doubt they will! Go get it ladies! (Note to parents and others with special little women in their lives. I am not anti-tiara. I am anti what tiaras represent. If your little girl loves dress up and pretend play and tiaras, then carry on!)

Professional tiaras

I recently had my own tiara-resistance moment. I have applied for a job. It is within my current setting, but with a completely different focus- alumni development. On paper, it is a dream position- develop relationships, network with, and create programs for young alumni. Swoon! I knew that the position was going to post and I thought about just submitting my materials and then waiting. Like I have done with every other job search in my life. In the past, I have absolutely been guilty of the Tiara Syndrome. Carol Frohlinger of Negotiating Women, Inc. says that TS involves keeping your head down, doing good work, and waiting for people to notice and reward you.

Instead of waiting to be noticed, I emailed the person who would be my supervisor if I got offered the position and I asked him to coffee. I was bold. I was direct. I did not wait, I advocated for myself. I said, “I would like to learn more about your office and what you do. Can I take you to coffee?” I have never done this before in my entire life. I was absolutely terrified. Was I too bold? Was I pushy? Would it be awkward if he said no?

He said yes. We went to coffee and I learned a TON about the office, his style, the position, and what he is looking for. I told him that I would be applying and then indicated why I would be a strong candidate. Again, I have never done this before in my life. Guess what? It didn’t hurt. It was actually really fun. It was useful, helpful, and informative. Even if I don’t get offered an interview, it was a good use of my time, personally and professionally. Even if I don’t get the job, I know more about Alumni Relations and what the “work” is. This information will only help me.

This morning, this article came across my Twitter feed: “Don’t ever apologize for being a good parent and other lessons for hard-working women.”

I am in love with this post by Stacy Janicki. It says, for me, so many things that I am trying to practice in my own life and work. It says so well the career counseling and leadership advice I am trying to share with my students. She talks about the tiara syndrome and how to combat it. She encourages women to learn self-promotion skills and to ask for what they want.

Yes!

No more tiaras!

No more tiaras!

Have you had a tiara-resistance moment?

The “Have it All” Trap

Lately, there has been talk and backtalk about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” which was printed in the July/August issue of The Atlantic. First, I will say this. I think Slaughter is spot-on. Spot on. I believe that she was courageous to say what she did and her “calling out” of the current work-life system was timely, appropriate, and necessary. Two of her statements especially resonated with me:

“I still strongly believe that women can ‘have it all’ (and that men can too). I believe that we can ‘have it all at the same time.’ But, not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged- and quickly changed.”

and this:

“in short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be”

BOOM!

She spoke my very soul. That is exactly how I felt when I was a Director (most of 2011) and is exactly why I left my Director role.

YES! BRAVO! THANK YOU! Thank you for putting this out there! I think her piece was gutsy and brave. And, I appreciated hearing from another working woman who re-evaluated her life and her priorities and made a choice- a personal and professional sacrifice that works- or at least works better for now- for her and her family.

What is sad, to me, is that she felt she had to do this. For various reasons, which she outlines in her piece, Slaughter felt that she (emphasis mine) could not, in her high-level government position, be the kind of professional and mother that she wanted and need to be, and that her children wanted and needed her to be. I thought that was the intent of her piece. Obviously, I am not her. I have no idea what her intentions were. But, I read it as a commentary on her own work-life experiences and her wrestling with the negotiation (my word, not hers) of motherhood and professional life. I was excited and energized. I thought, “Wow! Yes! Maybe now we will have a real conversation about current practices, policies, and practices that have become policies, related to work-life negotiation.” Let’s talk about the “uncomfortable facts” (Slaughter’s words) that need to be changed. Let’s talk about why she felt she had to do this.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm has already waned. The responses I am reading are ripping on Slaughter as elitist, privileged, over-achieving, not doing enough. All of which Slaughter also addresses in her piece.

One of the first responses I saw on-line was this article. In four or five paragraphs the author manages to:

1. complain about the graphic that was used- a naked toddler sitting in a briefcase. Okay. A little trite. Overused. Sure. But, really? I can’t imagine that Slaughter herself picked that graphic. And, it worked. Because you wrote about it and now thousands of other bloggers are writing about it, too.

2. bemoan the phrase “have it all.” Also trite? Also overused? Yes. Isn’t that part of Slaughter’s point? She admits that she fell into the “have it all trap” AND that she unwittingly made the generations behind her feel guilty for not achieving it all.

Finally, the author then says that the core problem with Slaughter’s article is that she frames work-life as only a woman’s issue. Okay, I am with you on this one. Currently, the work-life conversation is framed as a working-women-with-children issue. That is indeed part of the problem. (Although there are exceptions- see Brad Harrington and the new Dad study done by the Boston College Center for Work and Family).

Women are living it. Women are doing a lot of the writing and commentating about it. I think this was also Slaughter’s point.

And, sadly, women are also the ones doing most of the tearing down of other women and their choices. Which is my point here.

All of this makes me feel…overwhelmed. Annoyed. Frustrated. One woman cannot possibly be the voice for every other woman’s experience. Would we want her to be, even if she could? Slaughter wrote about her experience. I write about my experience. You write about yours. That is what makes the world go round. And, that is also what starts the dialogue and will push agendas forward.

Work-life is an issue for anyone who has a job and a life, which is pretty much, well, everyone. There absolutely needs to be more dialogue. Let’s focus on that & continue to advance the conversation.

Playing hooky with my friends

3 #ReverbBroad posts for the price of one!

June 11
If you were to play hooky from work today, what would you do instead?
Krissy

I would actually need at least four days to play hooky. One day to drive to New Jersey to pick up my sisters (my first best friends). Two days to spend at the beach, while “down the shore.” One day to drive back to reality.

While at the beach, I would sleep, read, and eat myself into oblivion. After a day of “sunbathing” (with full-on sunscreen and a huge hat, because now I know better!), we would eat seafood and drink ice-cold beer. Then, we would stroll up and down the boardwalk. I would not care that the sea air was making my hair too curly. I would eat a Kohr Brother’s orange & vanilla soft-serve custard, on a cake cone with rainbow sprinkles. I would fall asleep with a smile on my face, while the ocean lulled me into a deep, dreamless sleep.

June 15
Who was your first best friend?
Kristen

I always struggle with questions that force me to quantify or label things. First, best, favorite…I am not a fan of absolutes. But, this absolute question was actually easy. I am fortunate to have two amazing younger sisters whom I also count on as my best friends. It was not always this way, I am sure. Of course we fought, and teased, and were mean. That is what sisters do. But, under all of that sibling stuff, there has always been genuine love and affection for each other. We have always cheered for one another. We have supported each other through break-ups (“Of course he is a jerk! Let’s burn all the stuff he ever gave you!” True story.) We stood up for each other at weddings (nice bridesmaids’ dresses) and have consoled and counseled each other through motherhood, breastfeeding, work-life negotiation, and suburbia. My mother was right, “there is nothing like a sister.”

June 17
What three things do you want more of in your life? What three things do you want less of?
Krissy

More

1. Friends. I had no idea that this time in my life would be so isolating. I have friends. My sisters. A few from high school. A few from college. One from graduate school. One from my year as a Holy Cross Associate (Americorps Volunteer). One from my first job. But, all of these people are far away. Across the country far away. I am slowly meeting people at work and at my sons’ school. But, I would not necessarily call these current people friends. I have a lot of acquaintances. I have a lot of women in loose circles whom I respect and admire. I have a lot of people that I would really like to get to know better. I have a mentor (thank GOD for her!). But right now, I would really love a soul-sister. A fellow girlfriend I can go walking with, get my nails done with, have drinks with, call up and vent about my day with. This type of friendship is hard to come by and takes time to nurture and develop.

2. Exercise. The mental and physical benefits of this are self-explanatory.

3. Organization/Motivation. Confession: I am not exactly sure what I am doing with my time these days. I feel busy all the time. Distracted. Yet, very little seems to be getting done. There is always laundry to fold, dishes to wash, toilets to scrub, a garden (first one ever) to weed and water, maternity clothes to donate, on and on and on. I don’t want to fall into whining (too late?) so I will stop here. I would love to be organized and motivated.

Less

Gold Ribbon

Kids get cancer, too!

1. Childhood cancer.

2. Childhood cancer.

3. Childhood cancer.