I've said this before, but one of my very favorite aspects of blogging is the enlightening conversations it has facilitated with other authors and bloggers. One such author/blogger/financial industry exec/mother force? Shari Storm. Shari is the author of the recently-published book Motherhood Is the New MBA and also manages to find time to blog. Shari was kind enough to answer some of my questions. I trust that you will agree with me that her answers are both insightful and intriguing. Enjoy!
Not only are you the author of the new book, Motherhood Is the New MBA , you have two MBAs - one MBA from Seattle University and your "Motherhood MBA." How do the two work together to make you a better business person and also a better mother?
Shari: My university degree taught me invaluable lessons about business theory. A mentor of mine from my early 20s told me to make sure I got a solid education in accounting, statistics and economics. That was great advice for a liberal arts, marketing person, like me.
But what my Motherhood MBA is teaching me is how to think on my feet. One of my favorite quotes is You dont know negotiation until youve got two kids and one piece of toffee. Its so true! Raising children exercises that part of your brain that makes decisions quickly.
Working moms are often faced with feelings of inadequacy--from not giving enough hours at the office to not spending enough time with the kids, not to mention getting any time to themselves or with their partners. And yet, you've written that there is such a think as work-life balance. What is the most important thing a working mom can do to be "balanced?"
Shari: I think moms are far too hard on themselves. Society has set unrealistic expectations for our performance at the office and at home. I mean, you look at some of the things we do with our kids now-a-days that our mothers and our grandmothers wouldnt have dreamt of doing. Our moms were not afraid to let us be bored. They would tell us to go out and play in the yard. Today, we over-schedule and over-organize our lives. And moms bear the brunt of this in exhaustion and feelings of perpetual inadequacy.
I think the most important thing a working mom can do to be balanced is to believe she is balanced. In other words, telling herself she is doing a fine job, even if her kids arent in as many activities as other kids and even if she leaves the office earlier than her childless counterparts. Oh, and dont listen to folks like Jack Welch.
Sometimes it seems as though there are two camps of women--the working moms and the stay-at-home-moms. How is your advice relevant for someone who is not in a traditional 9 to 5 job but still a mother?
Shari: In this economy, stay-at-home-moms are returning to the work place in record numbers (as their husbands get laid off) Conversely many working moms are returning to the stay-at-home role as theyve been laid off. We are witnessing a great migration of roles. I hope all moms find that the time they spend with their children is never a professional liability. The lessons we learn from raising kids are lessons that make us better career women.
I have noticed that there are some mothers who act like they are CEOs of their families. They schedule classes and playdates like they are board meetings and conference calls. They adhere (or try to adhere) to rigid rules. In my estimation, nurturing a family is profoundly different than nurturing a business. Do you agree?
Shari: I think sometimes people forget that a business is really just a bunch of people. And whether we like the idea or not, people need nurturing to be their best performers.
My whole career, Ive heard sports analogies when it comes to business and Ive heard war analogies when it comes to business. I believe there is room for a metaphor that includes a more caring, encouraging framework - like the family.
Having said that, employees, like kids, want an environment that is predictable and safe. They want the people in charge of them to be consistent, fair and honest and they want to clearly understand expectations and consequences.
Personally, I found that having a child made me more creative and ambitious. Perhaps this is so because I suddenly felt compelled to set a strong example for my children? Did you feel this way?
Shari: Ah! I am so glad you asked this question. I love it. YES! I found I was tremendously more creative and that I had a lot more energy for all sorts of things. You must read the phenomenal book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Ellison called The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. She provides scientific backing to the idea that raising kids makes us braver, more cunning and better able to handle stressful situations.
Thank you, Shari! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and to share your well-honed instincts and insights on important questions about navigating the overlapping worlds of parenthood and career.
Do you agree with Shari's basic premise that parenthood sharpens our business or professional skills? Do you agree that we modern parents are often too hard on ourselves? Do you agree that believing we are balanced is an important part of being balanced? Do you believe that balance exists, or do you think it is an ephemeral ideal that will consistently elude us?