Friday, March 1, 2013

Who needs you most?

I read a rather interesting article "Why Women still can't have it all" - it was even recommended by a senior male leader and one I recommend every woman reads:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/ 

I was opportuned to hear from the author of the article Anne-Marie Slaughter directly on Fareed Zakaria's show titled: Tough Decisions. I was really pleased that this made the list of tough decisions. Apparently, her article was the most read article in The Atlantic's 150-year history. Upon hearing that, the first thing that said to me is that everyone is out to see and learn from other people's real life experiences – we’re all drawn to authentic people.

Very many things in the article stuck me - too many to recount...the main one being the title of this post.

Mrs. Slaughter acknowledged that being the first woman Director of Policy Planning at the State Department hence a close aide to Secretary Hilary Clinton was a "foreign-policy dream job" and the career she'd always wanted. Unlike a number of professional women, she was clear on what she wanted; she was also honest in realizing the needs in her life. So when she considered her family and her career, she had to make a tough decision between need and want.


Obviously she wasn't the only one: Mary Matalin who worked as President Bush’s assistant and Vice President Cheney’s counselor had to leave that job - in her words: I finally asked myself, “Who needs me more?” And that’s when I realized, it’s somebody else’s turn to do this job. I’m indispensable to my kids, but I’m not close to indispensable to the White House.
Without a doubt, it takes courage to persistently pursue your ambition - especially professionally. It takes even more courage to pause and step back from that ambition and focus on raising the next generation - which is the greatest privilege* any parent can ever have. Parenting is a privilege that has pressure with a whole lot more pleasure when our children turn out right. A successful parent with spoilt or unsuccessful children is a failure - there is no polished way of saying that.

Another nugget I got from the article was from Lisa Jackson.** According to her: “to be a strong woman, you don’t have to give up on the things that define you as a woman.” That means respecting, enabling, and indeed celebrating the full range of women’s choices. “Empowering yourself,” Jackson said in her speech at Princeton, “doesn’t have to mean rejecting motherhood, or eliminating the nurturing or feminine aspects of who you are.”

As women, too often we want and try to "be all things to all men" (women and children). There is nothing wrong in being reliable and available however, sometimes we stretch ourselves to too thinly and even unfairly to ourselves and others we're stretching ourselves for (or to). In all we do, we need to remain true to ourselves - focussing on needs not wants because we truly cannot have it "all." 
 
My main take-away from this very long and honest article is that it is ok for my decisons at each phase of my life  to change however, they need to be ones that I can "live" with - without regret. From now onwards, with each turn in my career, I'll pause to ask myself: "Who needs me more?" and know what to pursue.

References:
*Life afford no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than raising the next generation. ~ Everett C. Koop
**Lisa Jackson is the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency  

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