Every morning, when I step into my office building, I remove the ID card I use to enter my son's day care building and clip on the one I use for my office. I don't need to waste any words translating that symbolism. All working parents are familiar with the sometimes unsettling feeling of the dual role of parent and professional.
The divide between the issues I confront in the office and those at home -- and how I feel about them -– exacerbates this duality. For me, whether I "succeed" as a working mom will depend on whether I can bring my work and my family lives closer together. A client's 180-degree turn that results in weeks more work, or the parent company's sudden decision to yank away benefits are considerably more frustrating when my brain knows that those are the wrong decisions, and my heart has little engagement in the work, anyway.
Which is why I was particularly moved by the tributes to Eunice Kennedy Shriver upon her death. This remarkable woman, who had the desire, smarts and the wherewithal (and the family name) to succeed in Washington politics, was kept out by the era's gender bias, and devoted her whole life to a different kind of public service. Her success –- and her immeasurable impact on the world –- was in an area very close to her heart. Her founding of the Special Olympics and her fight for equality for those with disabilities was inspired by her own sister’s struggles.
Now, although Eunice Kennedy Shriver was, indeed, a working mom, I do not pretend to address how (or whether) she was able to find a work/life "balance." But one only needs to hear a few quotes from her to know that she had found the work where her heart and her brain could work in synchronicity. And it paid off – certainly for millions around the world, and hopefully for her, too.
The need to find a career focus -– and a working environment –- that was more meaningful, more tangible, more life-affirming, has been occupying me for a long time. But now, it is much more powerful now that my son is here. I cannot pretend to even hope to make as big an impact on the world as did Mrs. Shriver, but I can aim to find that nexus of heart and mind, for sure it would not only benefit me, but hopefully, benefit my son. My effort renewed.