Home for Dinner

The COO of Facebook leaves work every day by 5:30 to have dinner with her kids, and she thinks you should too.

How great is that? I love so many things about this clip. First, it’s refreshing to hear women talk frankly about their balancing choices.  Note that Sheryl doesn’t brush over her decision to leave “early” as if it were no big deal. It IS a big deal, maybe especially so in the tech industry where Sheryl works. It’s pretty clear to me from this clip that leaving by 5:30 is not the easy thing, it’s just the right thing for Sheryl and her family. So she makes it work.

Some of you are thinking, “that’s great for her, maybe someday when I’m the boss of the company, I’ll leave whenever I want to!”

It’s true that Sheryl has some latitude, being the COO and all. But Sheryl wasn’t always the boss, and you don’t have to be to make it work. I left work at 6:00 every day to be home with my family my entire career, not just when I hit the executive suite.

Notably, even though Sheryl is the COO she doesn’t discount the needs of her company and her coworkers. She knows that her team members need to feel that she’s engaged and contributing, whether or not she’s in the office at 5:30. So she gets up early, sometimes she stays up late, and she does her job really well. And that matters.

I’ve seen these kinds of trade-offs from all sides; as a mom, a coworker, and a boss. Some women do it really well, and some really poorly.

The difference?

I think the women who managed the worst tended to see work and family as enemies, locked in constant zero-sum competition. For them, prioritizing one meant necessarily punishing the other.  With that mind set, guilt and resentment start to take over as your primary motivators. That’s not a good place to be.  Let me tell you, when you start to resent your job, it shows. And if you’re miserable at work, your family will feel it.

Women who balance the best tend to see work and family (and other priorities like faith and health) much more collaboratively. Sort of like pieces of a puzzle that fit together to form a bigger picture. Prioritizing one piece at an appropriate time doesn’t hurt the others; it helps the whole. You can see this kind of attitude in Sheryl Sandberg’s approach.

Sometimes balancing is hard. But it can be hard and positive, or hard and negative. You really can choose.

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For more on Diane’s experiences with balance and boundaries, check out Chapter 17 of Work Love Pray.