KelliePantekoek

What Sheryl Sandberg, my mom and Yogi Berra have taught me about work-life balance

This past Mother’s Day was my last as a non-mother, so naturally I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being a mom, and more specifically, being a working mom. Above all, I keep asking myself one thing: Do I have what it takes to balance work, life and motherhood? No doubt, this is a question many young, professional females have grappled with.

While we don’t have generations upon generations of working mothers to look to for advice, we do have some very accomplished women who have shared their recipes for success when it comes to balancing work and motherhood.

Over the past couple months, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been perhaps the most widely-discussed advice-giver with the release of her book “Lean In,” which she describes as a "sort of feminist manifesto." In my opinion, the book provides valuable advice for women, especially those beginning their careers in the business and legal fields.

Many rising female attorneys are faced right away with the decision of whether to commit to the partner track or choose another path. Sandberg advises that women shouldn’t plan for future “either/or” forks in their career paths. Instead, Sandberg advises to “lean in,” and when the time comes, learn how to juggle.

Of course, Sandberg’s advice has also been met with criticism. While most agree with Sandberg’s ultimate objective of accomplishing gender equality in the workplace, some disagree with her advice on getting there. For example, many have questioned whether Sandberg -- who was ranked by Forbes as the tenth most powerful woman in the world -- has any business telling regular, middle-class women how to strike a work-life balance.

What it comes down to is that one woman’s recipe for success is not going to work for all women. Accordingly, it’s wise to also look to women we are close to for guidance. For me, that means looking to my own mom. She will be the first to admit that she didn’t have a calculated formula for being a full-time engineer while raising three kids, but perhaps that’s the best advice of all.

My mom did the best she could while balancing a successful career and motherhood. And while I seldom had a home-packed lunch or much help with my science fair projects, I vividly remember the moments of inspiration that drove me to good grades and law school, even though I often had to count on rides from other parents to basketball practice.

These moments include listening to my mom eagerly discuss her latest projects on family road trips, seeing the proud look on my dad’s face as we watched my mom being interviewed on the local news and hearing about her small victories in a male-dominated work environment. These moments tell me that “the best I can” might just be enough.

Our generation of working women is lucky because we finally have both public leaders and personal mentors to look to for guidance. We ultimately have the ability to gather the advice that resonates with us and start off on our own paths. Personally, I plan to incorporate the insight of Sheryl Sandberg, my mom and baseball great Yogi Berra who famously quipped: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

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