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parenting

My Personal Journey

Did I get away with murder?

As readers of my blog know, I have had a high pressure career while being married to a man who also has a career, and raising two children. That’s the backdrop to something my father said to me last weekend which stopped me in my tracks.

Talking about a woman we know whose husband is divorcing her, my father said “Well you got away with murder!”

Wow. Talk about judgement from your Dad. Now it’s important to note my father is absolutely one of the good guys. He’s always been very supportive of my career and proud of my accomplishments, but even he carries the unconscious bias about women working.

When I was a new CEO, working hard, with two young children, my parents would often say “poor Bret” – feeling sorry for my husband that I was not taking enough care of him. They would feel bad for me that I was working so hard, and my mother many times said she wondered if she had done the right thing raising my sister and I to be so independent because the result was that we had stressful careers. I know she’d do it all over again because she believed strongly in women’s equality and I learned to ignore all the comments eventually because I knew they understood really. But when my father said I got away with murder I had to think again.

What exactly did I get away with? Staying married. Being in a partnership with a great guy. Raising two amazing children who are now powerful, fully functioning adults who I adore, and who adore me? Keeping my health despite a few trip ups along the way? Finding amazing young women to partner with in raising our children? Choosing to work with like-minded business partners in my own companies? Having a handful of friends to lean on when my schedule got too crazy? Raising dogs and cats together in peace?

Seriously?

And yet I know I have been silently judged by many people far more seriously than my father’s quip. Men in the workplace asking me if I would come back to work after my pregnancy, asking why was I working with young children at home. Asking me if I feel guilty, asking me what my husband thinks about my working, asking me if I could manage both children and my career. I have experiences a mile long – I could write a book but it wouldn’t change anything.

Maybe I did get away with murder. But maybe not. Maybe I lead a rich and rewarding life surrounded by great people who help and support me, and whom I help and support back. And, after a good debate last weekend, my father says he agrees with me.

 

Leadership

The Best Mistake I Ever Made

Asked by a journalist the other day “what is the best mistake you ever made” I had to think for a moment. There are so many – where to begin!

But as I pondered the question, there is one decision I look back on and think “What was I thinking?”

I became CEO of a raw software startup at 36
when my children were 2 and 4 years old. My husband was working long hours
running a small consulting business and I thought I had no limits. I could do
anything, and I wanted to run my own company. I wanted to show that a woman
could run a very technical software company in the semiconductor industry – where
there were no women at the top at all. And I wanted to lead.

Six months in I felt I had made a terrible
mistake. I was totally exhausted every single day. I barely had time to see my
kids in the week and I had bronchitis month after month. I had 2 nannies
working shifts, I gained weight and I would lie in bed awake every night
wondering how I was going to survive, never mind win. I think my marriage only
survived because we had already been married 15 years at that point and my
husband is truly, authentically supportive of my career.

And yet… it was one of the best things I could
have done, and I loved it. I loved being CEO, I loved building a company, a
team and working with customers. I became fast friends with our nannies and my
kids turned out just fine. They are confident, independent and have endless
very funny stories about their crazy mother and the experiences they had
because of my job. They traveled with me all over the world, they went into the
office with me at a young age learning by watching and they have a strong work
ethic as a result of the exposure they had. And we are close, very close.

So was it a mistake? Some days I think I took
a huge risk assuming I could do it all and have it all. But when young women ask me about that decision as they think through their own I’m encouraging. Children are resilient, good men are supportive and while you can’t have it all you can certainly have your fair share.

Image: Alamy