10/21/2015 Molly Moseley

Female executives, primary parents and the myth of having it all

CC Image by Datuna Otfinowski, Flickr

In a time when women are openly encouraged to “lean in” and glass ceilings are shattered more frequently than ever before, it might seem that having it all has never been more achievable. Yet having a happy family and a thriving career is no easy task, and female executives are struggling to reach what society deems the holy grail of success.

As any parent knows, raising a child is a full-time job. Being a primary parent means managing schedules, tracking homework and attending countless lessons, games and PTO meetings. Add to that the responsibilities of a job in the C-suite, where a 40-hour week would be considered light, and you’ll understand why female executives with kiddos are feeling stretched so thin.

Yes, I’d argue that having it all is downright impossible.

It’s a given that each parent must dedicate a certain amount of their time in order to raise their children. If a mother decides to stay home, perhaps she takes on 80 percent of those child-raising tasks. If both parents work, however, maybe they try to split the responsibilities evenly. Moms have historically focused their efforts on homemaking instead of on their careers, and the growing population of stay-at-home fathers is a game changer.

The number of fathers who are at home with their children has nearly doubled since 1989, according to the Pew Research Center. Fathers represent a growing share of all at-home parents — 16 percent in 2012. As more women strive for executive positions, will this number increase? I hope so, because 16 percent is still astonishingly low, especially when you consider that, of this group, 35 percent of stay-at-home dads are home due to illness or disability rather than to specifically to care for their home or family.

One thing that most successful men and women can agree on is that they wouldn’t be where they are today without incredible support. Whether it’s dad staying home or working part-time in order to take on the primary parenting role, or grandparents, friends and nannies stepping in to make complex schedules work, it truly takes a village to raise children and be a successful female executive today.

It’s important to note that while these leading ladies are handing off some parental responsibilities, they don’t love their children any less. Some people may quickly assume they value their job over their family, but if we would never think that of a man in a leading role, why are we tempted to think it about woman?

It’s OK to be career focused, to let your partner handle the majority of parental duties, and still be emotionally connected to your kids. Men have been doing this for decades! In fact, children provide a great reason for female execs to work even harder to break stereotypes and prove you can do whatever you put your mind to. They’re watching everything we do, after all.

Bottom line: no one can have it all, but there are ways to make it all work. The sooner we accept that each family has its own approach to success, the better our communities will be and the more female executives we’ll see in the board room.