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March 17, 2005

Excerpts: Mother Leads Best - Part VI

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:01 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Myth #4: Women who have to leave work because of family problems become bitter and resentful. In other words, you feel that the decision to have children will eventually come back to haunt you. You fear having kids because you feel they will need you, youll have to quit a job you love, and this second decision will make you miserable. Or you have already had children, and youre just waiting for the other shoe to dropfor the moment when the family/work balance becomes impossible to maintain and you have to quit.
In reality, when high-achieving mothers stop working, they usually do so because they have decided they prefer to be at home rather than at work. No one puts a gun to their heads. Contrary to the myth, they dont look at motherhood as a sentence to life in prison. I interviewed a number of very talented, ambitious executive moms with senior corporate executive aspirations, but they had gladly stopped working or changed career paths to spend more time at home. Some felt they could not be good at both, some didnt like the incredibly hectic pace, and others had children in distress. Not one regretted her decision to become a mother. In fact, they all said their children were the best part of their lives. Though some had struggled with the decision to leave the corporate world, all of them eventually came to terms with their departures.
In fact, a trait of many maternal leaders is an ability to derive meaning from more than work. Though they may miss aspects of the business world, they dont miss it in the same way that many men do. Too often, powerful male leaders derive the bulk of their identity from their work, and fatherhood is seen as a secondary role. Powerful executive mothers, on the other hand, have a more balanced viewpoint. This balance is why senior women leaders are not as likely to be consumed by the quest to be CEO as men are. Warren Farrell, the author of The Myth of Male Power, finds the following:
When a woman gets near the top, she starts asking herself the most intelligent questions. The fact that few women make it to the very top is a measure of womens power, not powerlessness. Women havent learned to get their love by being president of a company. Theyve learned they can get respect and love in a variety of different waysfrom being a good parent, from being a top executive, or by a combination of both. But here again, women are opting off the CEO track because they believe they found something better, namely, love. (Farrell, 1)

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.