My Generation; My Daughter’s Generation

08 Jan My Generation; My Daughter’s Generation

Something that struck me continuing on in Sandberg’s book (the chapter on the leadership gap) is when she mentions a favourite quote, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s a question we should all pose, no matter what our roles.

She points out that her generation was raised in an era of increasing equality where women could have it all but the problem was during the years our careers demanded maximum time investment, our biology demanded that we have children.

Meanwhile we were still doing the majority of the housework and child rearing. The workplace was not evolved enough to give us the flexibility to fulfill our responsibilities at home and Sandberg says that caught us by surprise. I couldn’t agree more. But she claims that if our generation was too naïve, then the next generations are too practical. We knew too little and now girls know too much. Girls growing up today are not the first to have equality but they are the first to realize that that will not necessarily translate into professional achievement.  They have watched their mothers trying to do it all and have decided that something has to give and that something is usually their careers. This struck me like a lightning bolt.

There was a time when I worked full-time and struggled to be good at my job–and good at my life’s work as a wife and mother. While my husband maintained a busy practice in the ER, working night shifts and weekends,  I pulled 12 hour days at my own job.  But I also had to work on the weekends, not only prepping for my classroom, but running to my son’s hockey games and running to my daughter to dance, running errands, and desperately trying to get in a run. While my husband had some time to himself during the day, I was either working or with my children, non-stop. I nearly cracked after a couple of years and found myself, not fulfilled by my career, but rather resenting it.

Thankfully I had the option to go part time. I am beyond grateful that I have not looked back since, but yes, I can certainly attest to having cut some career choices short because of it. I look at my own daughter now, who wants to be a physician, like her father, but absolutely adores children and already knows she would like to have a family as well. And I fear for her. How will she manage it all? Or maybe the question is, how will she manages it all well?

She’s thought it through herself. It’s one of the reasons she’s chosen medicine: A fulfilling career that allows her to work part-time and still earn a good income. She’s a realist and that’s good. But here’s another thought: Did I teach her to make that choice? Have I not encouraged her to “lean in” enough? Because she’s already doing what Sandberg accuses women of: making choices to cut back before even meeting her future husband, let alone having children.