As the phrase goes, ‘Behind every great man, there is a woman’. Of our countries greatest men, presidents and politicians, business leaders and public figures, almost every one stands tall with a woman at his shoulder. While dated cultural sexism may tell us his woman spends her days in the kitchen with babies on her hip, the tables have long sense turned on traditional gender roles.
As women climb to the heights of careers alongside their male peers, many are not leaving the option to have a family behind. But how to do it all? Who’s going to pack lunches and mop floors if mom’s at work? This is a real problem many (if not most) women struggle with, and it often results in women scaling back their careers or not working at all. Truthfully, just as one man cannot do it all, no woman can either.
In her famed book Lean In, Sheryl Sandburg (COO of Facebook) devotes an entire chapter on making better partners out of our partners. In her opinion, if a husband would just do his share of the laundry, wives would find career success. Sandburg has a good point. House hold responsibilities should be an equal partnership. But as a single mother, this irked me. How am I supposed to have a great career when there’s no one to pick up the slack at home? Half of all marriages end in divorce, leaving droves of single parents without a partner to lean on. A huge demographic is missed in the 50-50 theory. As I swore off the book and vented frustrations to my peers, I was reminded to put things into perspective. Sheryl Sandburg did not write this book exclusively for me and her points are applicable with a little abstract application. I realized that partnership can come from anywhere.
While I may not have a spouse to hand the grocery list to, I am surrounded by an amazing network of support. I have wonderful people in my life who are there for me in an instant when I need them. When I can’t be with my children at night, my family can and I know they are always in loving hands. If I’ve had a rough week at work, my friends are there with a bottle of wine and a heart full of laughs. I can’t chaperone every field trip, but other mothers can help and I appreciate them endlessly. One of my biggest female inspirations, Leymah Gbowee, led an entire nation toward equal rights for women while raising four children through divorce. She could not have done it without a powerful community of women and sisters to stand behind her.
Behind every great woman, there is a community making it possible for her to succeed. Whether it is a husband, a mother, a sister, a friend, or a mentor, there is always someone behind us. No one can do it all, and no one has to. Find your network and reach out.