“…when women believe that for us ‘having it all’ must mean ‘doing it all’ – it becomes what psychologists call internalized oppression.”
Even though women make up half the workforce, they still represent only 18 percent of the highest-level leaders. Why? Could it be connected to the fact that just as women reach middle management, they are also starting families? Could it be that the mounting responsibilities at home and at work leave them with little bandwidth to do what they need to do to create success?
Tiffany Dufu, a renowned expert in the women’s leadership movement, thinks so. Her life’s work is advancing women and girls. In Drop the Ball, Dufu recounts how she learned to reevaluate expectations, shrink her to-do list and get help from others—freeing the space she needed to flourish at work and develop deeper, more meaningful relationships at home.
Sound appealing? Maybe you need to think about dropping the ball too!
Below are 3 lessons from her fabulous book to help you. But I do recommend you read the whole book. You won’t want to put it down!
The Big Idea
Let it roll!
"The first step to Dropping the Ball is getting over the fear of letting that ball roll all over the floor. We have to let it roll to feel the freedom, laugh loud and live fully."
The workforce revolution that began in the 1950s has stagnated. Dufu suggests that maybe it’s because we needed a parallel revolution at home. Study after study has proven that gender diversity in the workplace creates better outcomes. And it would be the same at home.
The workplace, however, is light-years ahead of the home where women are drowning in unattainable expectations that they must manage A to Z; from after school snacks, to board meetings, to carpools, to direct reports, to elder care, to financial reports… you get the picture.
There is a parable that describes a woman who tires as she is swimming across a lake. As she starts to sink, people on the shore yell “Drop the rock!” that is tied around her, pulling her down. As she sinks, they can hear her saying, “I can’t. It’s mine.”
Are you struggling to swim while carrying your own rocks? Dufu suggests we need to ask ourselves what matters most. What do we need to let go of to make it happen? Who in our lives can help us? Where can your kids, your partner, your neighbors, or paid support free up space for you to achieve your goals?
I’m a professional speaker. Often, after a talk, women will approach me and ask how I ‘do it all’; enjoy three kids, my own business, a non-profit group, and still have time for a weekly date with my wonderful husband. My simple answer is “I don’t!”.
Most importantly, I have an “all-in partner” (more on that below) and a team of support—from our neighbors with whom we trade babysitting for date nights, to the car pool dance parents, to my elance assistant and my household support manager (aka nanny).
I also made a big decision to drop the ball. I learned to keep the things I like and that are important that I do, and outsource the things I don’t. For example, yes, my daughter needs cupcakes for her birthday party. But I doubt she cares if I make them or if someone picks them up at the bakeshop! Cleaning? Laundry? Those were the first to go! For certain my house will not make the holiday tour for best Christmas decorations—but since I don’t love decorating anyway, I’ve learned to be OK with that. Seriously, aren’t the Martha Stewart expectations a little much!?
What balls can you bravely drop?
"…many of the women C.E.O.s said they could not have succeeded without the support of their husbands, helping with the children, the household chores and showing a willingness to move."
The All-In Partnership is my favorite topic. Dufu begins her book with her frustrations trying to get her husband off the damn blue couch. She takes us (nodding and laughing all the way) through their journey to achieving what she calls an All-in Partnership.
They were so successful on that journey that Dufu said she came to know at least one thing for sure: her success at work and in life was directly correlated to the high expectations she had of her husband. And interestingly, she noted, the more she expected of him, the more incredible an All-in Partner he became! I couldn’t agree more!
She shares ideas that include:
- The importance of showing gratitude
- Leave it and trust he will pick it up
- Allow him to lead and make mistakes
Be aware of the stereotype of the dumb dad (think of the Berenstain Bears stories in which Mother has to fix poor Father’s many mistakes), and your belief that only YOU can manage the home front. This myth stifles everyone’s potential says Dufu.
Perhaps you are thinking:
- “He can’t manage the details.”
- “He isn’t here.” (Dufu’s husband had a stint working half-way around the world but they figured out creative ways for him to still contribute)
- “He doesn’t know what’s best for our children.”
And here’s the trouble with that. The more the mother believes the father to be incompetent at home, the more gatekeeping she does. The more gatekeeping she does, the less practice he gets. The less competent he feels, the less motivated he is to spend time with his children and contribute at home.
Why is it that you do everything? Reconsider from where you get your value.
The Four Go-Tos
"When women are physically fit, well networked, visible and well rested, their leadership is inevitably advanced."
Regular and repeated practices allow us to flourish or flounder. Dufu has summarized the four most important daily practices to help you flourish into what she calls the Four Go-Tos.
- Going to exercise (building your stamina)
- Going to lunch (building your network)
- Going to events (building your visibility)
- Going to sleep (building your renewal)
These are not rocket science you say. Indeed not. But do you do them? They are essential to your ability to prosper at work and in life and impossible to accomplish unless you figure out how to free up time. Drop the ball!
Dufu opened the door to her family struggles with the hope that it will help other families achieve the triumphs they now enjoy. She has dropped her actionable wisdom on the pages of her book. This is one ball you will want to pick up.