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There’s a common refrain among the Moms I meet, the juggle of work and life is straining the fragile infrastructure we’ve cobbled together. After an extended time managing way-too-much, it’s clear the solution goes beyond clever prioritization. If you’ve felt pressure from wanting to pour all of your presence into those beautiful little people you’re raising while also managing a household and nurturing the career you’ve primed with years of effort, this book is for you.
Several Moms, from both my local online Moms group and those who took the Mental Load survey recommended this book. I’m thrilled to have found it! On my quest to ‘bridge’ the chasm between overwhelm and self-care, while also building capacity to learn new things, I need practical guidance. There are many useful insights from Dufu’s thoughtful steps.
Tiffany Dufu is a leader in the movement to advance women and girls and most recently, was the Chief Leadership Officer for social-good start up, Levo. Her candid memoir describes how she created the space to flourish in her career and life by learning to ‘drop the ball’ at home.
She explains, through a combination of personal stories and supporting research, the complicated reasons women fail to ‘drop the ball’ at home and why the “life-go-round” that holds women back from happiness and career success is unsustainable.
She beautifully outlines the relentless daily schedule of the typical working Mom, where days filled with meetings mean nights spent trying to catch up on emails, resulting in the to-do list never ending. “…The vast majority of working mothers embark on a similar daily struggle to fulfill their dual responsibilities, most have no other choice. Balancing the demands of a full-time career outside the home, with the demands of being a full-time boss inside the home. They are sleep deprived because they wake up early and go to bed late.”
She details, how she transitioned from an extreme case of ‘HCD’ (Household Control Disease) to resetting her own expectations and enlisting her husband as an ‘all-in’ partner to share household and childcare responsibilities.
Addresses the Gap Between ‘Lean In’ and ‘Unfinished Business’
I’ve read (and loved) Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ and Anne Marie Slaughter’s ‘Unfinished Business’. Both are brilliant books about gender equality and the paradox that affects many women and Moms as they seek to grow and succeed in their careers.
In Lean In, Sandberg dedicates an entire chapter outlining that it’s critical to ‘make your partner a true partner’ at home. In ‘Unfinished Business’ Slaughter, describes how her husband became the primary caregiver during the years she worked in a demanding, high profile position. Both women explain why having this type of equal partnership with their spouses was essential to their success and ability to ‘lean in’ to their demanding professions.
Although it resonated with me, that an important part of ‘the answer’ to maintaining career ambition is to have an equal-partnership with your spouse at home, I felt discouraged rather than uplifted by this realization. It’s great advice for an unmarried woman, Sandberg (wisely) shared in the book that she tells young women the “most important career decision you’ll ever make is who you marry.”
What’s a Mom, already in an established relationship full of bad patterns to do?
Dufu takes us on her journey, from dating and falling in love through to making her spouse an ‘all-in’ (equal) partner with childcare and housework. With humor and heartfelt accounts of the trials and missteps, we follow her journey to show her husband how to demonstrate support of her ambitions. I believe after reading through this and trying to follow the timeline, this process took her about 2 years.
For any partnered Mom who lacks ‘all-in’ partnership from her spouse, the time, however long it takes is well worth the investment and Dufu provides the blueprint on how she made it happen.
Themes Underpinning Dufu’s System
Although she takes care to share stories of non-traditional family structures, including how two single Moms forged an amazing partnership to share living space, her methods to create a strong ecosystem that supports her career, health, creativity and wellbeing would be challenging to execute in the same way without a partner.
She also shares research that equal partnership in the home is more prevalent among same-sex couples, however highlights a Dad (in a same-sex marriage) who created more equal daily partnership with his spouse.
The strength of the book, however, comes from her life experiences which center around the pitfalls of traditional gender roles.
Eyes On The Prize
By creating an all-in partnership with her spouse and a ‘village’ of support (combination of paid caregivers, neighbors, family members and ‘unpaid working Mom’ friends who stay at home) Dufu has reached the ‘holy grail’. She’s thriving in a senior leadership role, one steeped in social impact, while also investing her time in ways that nurture her energy and further growth.
She goes on to explain where and how to invest the time gained after fixing the home infrastructure, “the four go-to’s.” Prioritizing exercise and sleep for optimal health while also establishing a strong, supportive professional network and platform of visibility. What she’s accomplished at home and in her work-life is impressive and she articulates the many unwritten rules that limit women’s representation at the highest levels…the roles that once achieved, provide the greatest visibility, rewards and autonomy.
Finding The Book
I highly recommend this book, it was a great read that makes a rather nebulous, often emotional topic for those of us in the middle of it accessible. Despite the honest accounts of inequality and challenges, Dufu maintains a positive, empowering tone throughout. Learn more about Tiffany Dufu and her book, Drop the Ball on her website. To keep up with her adventures, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Have you read it already? What do you think? Do tell in the comments or send me a note.